U.S. Congress Ends Default Threat, President Obama Signs Debt Bill

Early Thursday morning US President Barack Obama signed a bill into law to end a disruptive 16-day government shutdown and increase the current debt ceiling to prevent the country from a debt dafault.

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden listen as they are updated on the federal government shutdown and the approaching debt ceiling deadline, in the Oval Office. Photo: The White House/ Flickr

Finally, on Wednesday night America’s paralyzing two-week political crisis came to an end after Congress voted through an eleventh-hour deal to re-open the government and avert a devastating debt default.

The compromising bill was passed by both Senate and House of Representatives after 16 days of government shutdown and only 24 hours before the deadline to raise the debt ceiling.

President Barack Obama signed the legislation early Thursday. He said he would reopen the government immediately to “lift this cloud of uncertainty and unease” that settled on the nation and start fixing the damage.

“There is a lot of work ahead of us, including our need to earn back the trust of the American people that has been lost over the last few weeks,” Obama said in a brief speech at the White House.

In the House of Representatives 144 of its 232 members voted against the bill in defiance of the party’s leadership. A group of 18 Republican senators, including Ted Cruz, the Texas firebrand seen as the architect of the shutdown, voted against with 27 Republicans in favor, says the Telegraph.

Obama signed into law, the “Continuing Appropriations Act, 2014,” which provides fiscal year 2014 appropriations for projects and activities of the Federal Government through Wednesday, January 15, 2014, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in a statement in the wee hours today.

“The effective time for the continuing resolution begins on October 1, 2013,” Carney said, adding that the law also extends the Nation’s debt limit through February 7, 2014.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) was to have breakfast Thursday morning with her House counterpart, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), to start a new round of talks aimed at averting another crisis. Obama repeated his vow to work with Republicans to rein in a national debt that remains at historically high levels.

“With the shutdown behind us and budget committees forming, we now have an opportunity to focus on a sensible budget that is responsible, that is fair, and that helps hardworking people all across this country,” Obama said at the White House.

The President also called on both sides of the aisle to work together in the future on a range of issues, including stalled immigration legislation. “We’ve got to get out of the habit of governing by crisis,” he said.

The signing of the bill came just in time to prevent an imminent default as the US would have exhausted its borrowing power by the end of today. The shutdown sent Republican poll ratings plunging, cost the government billions of dollars and damaged the nation’s international credibility, reports The NY Times.

Mr. Obama refused to compromise, leaving Republican leaders to beg him to talk, and to fulminate when he refused. For all that, Republicans got a slight tightening of income verification rules for Americans accessing new health insurance exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act.

“We fought the good fight. We just didn’t win,” House Speaker John Boehner said in an interview with Cincinnati radio station WLW-AM ahead of the vote.

In a statement late Wednesday, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, made the reopening official.

“Employees should expect to return to work in the morning,” she said, adding they should check news reports and the Office of Personnel Management’s Web site for updates.

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