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House, Senate vote to reopen government, avoid debt crisis

Published: Friday, Oct. 18, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

The nation stepped back from the brink of default late Wednesday as Congress approved a bill to reopen the federal government and raise the debt ceiling.

President Barack Obama signed the bill early Thursday and federal employees returned to work Thursday.

The Senate approved the proposal crafted by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on an 81-18 vote Wednesday night. The House approved it 285-144.

“We fought the good fight. We just didn’t win,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said hours before the vote.

U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Channahon, supported the legislation. His district includes Grundy County.

“House Republicans fought to the brink to protect hardworking Americans from the higher premiums and reduced coverage that Obamacare is already forcing on them,” he said in a written statement.

“However, surpassing our debt threshold would be incredibly damaging to our already weak economy and harm millions of Americans who are struggling just to make ends meet,” he said in the statement. “Simply put, I am not willing to put the entire American economy at risk to dismantle a law that is already crumbling before our eyes.”

President Barack Obama, who spoke after the Senate vote, thanked Democrats and Republicans for their work and said he would sign the measure “immediately” to reopen the government and “begin to lift this cloud of uncertainty and unease from our businesses and from the American people.”

Obama suggested his focus will return to a stalled immigration overhaul, passing a farm bill and the federal budget.

The approval reopened the shuttered parts of the government after 16 days and ends for now the stalemate that started when House Republicans refused to approve funding for the government past Oct. 1 unless the Senate and Obama agreed to defund the Affordable Care Act, dubbed Obamacare.

It also temporarily extended the government debt ceiling. The government was expected to run out of borrowing authority Thursday evening.

Under the deal, the government is funded through Jan. 15 and the $16.7 trillion debt ceiling would be increased until Feb. 7. A bipartisan House-Senate conference committee – co-chaired by Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis. – would work on larger budget issues. The committee will have until Dec. 13 to complete its work and report to Congress. 

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