Shutdown ends; Obama signs deal
© Greg Nash

President Obama signed into law a bipartisan deal approved by Congress to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling, the White House said early Thursday morning.

Hundreds of thousands of federal workers will return to their jobs on Thursday, and national parks and memorials shuttered for 16 days will reopen.

Lawmakers voted just hours before the Oct. 17 deadline set by the Treasury Department for raising the borrowing limit.

Congress moved Wednesday to end the government shutdown and prevent a possible default, as the House and Senate both approved a Senate-negotiated agreement in separate, bipartisan votes.

The House voted 285-144 in favor of the bill, which would fund the government until Jan. 15 and raise the debt ceiling until Feb. 7. That followed an 81-18 Senate vote on the same measure.

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After weeks of bitter debate and stalemate between the two parties, it took less than three hours for the House and Senate to approve the package.

The Treasury had warned it would have only $30 billion in its accounts after Thursday, and Fitch on Tuesday put the U.S. credit rating on a negative watch.

Aside from easing the concerns on Wall Street, passage will give the two parties a framework for working together, at least for a few months. Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care: House passes funding bill | Congress gets deal on opioids package | 80K people died in US from flu last winter Wilkie vows no 'inappropriate influence' at VA Dems push back on using federal funds to arm teachers MORE (D-Wash.) said she and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanElection Countdown: Cruz, O'Rourke fight at pivotal point | Ryan hitting the trail for vulnerable Republicans | Poll shows Biden leading Dem 2020 field | Arizona Senate debate tonight Paul Ryan to campaign for 25 vulnerable House Republicans GOP super PAC pushes back on report it skipped ad buys for California's Rohrabacher, Walters MORE (R-Wis.) would hold a breakfast meeting on Thursday, the start of a budget conference that both chambers agreed to tonight.

The deal also gives the Treasury Department the ability to borrow beyond the debt ceiling.

"Because of today’s efforts, we will continue to honor all of our commitments — a core American value — and preserve the full faith and credit of the United States," Treasury Secretary Jack LewJacob (Jack) Joseph LewOvernight Finance: US reaches deal with ZTE | Lawmakers look to block it | Trump blasts Macron, Trudeau ahead of G-7 | Mexico files WTO complaint Obama-era Treasury secretary: Tax law will make bipartisan deficit-reduction talks harder GOP Senate report says Obama officials gave Iran access to US financial system MORE said in a statement Wednesday night.

And for the first time in two and a half weeks, the federal government is expected to reopen on Thursday.

The votes end a standoff that began as early as September, when House Republicans insisted on moving a continuing spending resolution that chipped away at ObamaCare. That led to the government shutdown, which began on the same day the new law’s exchanges were open to enrollment.

In the end, the only change to ObamaCare in the bill was a new process to verify the income claims of people applying for federal health insurance subsidies. Democrats viewed the concession as a fig leaf.

Some Republicans this week have acknowledged that decision to go to war over ObamaCare was a political disaster for their party. Polls show the GOP bore the brunt of the blame from voters, with Gallup registering a 28 percent approval rating for the GOP, the lowest rating it had ever recorded for a political party.

Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderOvernight Health Care — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Senate blocks Dem measure on short-term health plans | Trump signs bill banning drug price 'gag clauses' | DOJ approves Aetna-CVS merger | Juul ramps up lobbying Trump signs bills banning drug pricing 'gag clauses' Senate defeats measure to overturn Trump expansion of non-ObamaCare plans MORE (R-Tenn.) said he hopes the Republicans pushing to derail ObamaCare “learned a lesson that shutdowns and defaults shouldn't be a part of the way we do business.”

“They should be off limits,” Alexander said. “We have plenty of other legislative tactics we can use.”

But in a speech minutes before the Senate vote, Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzBeto O'Rourke will not share million he raised with other Dem Senate candidates Election Countdown: Cruz, O'Rourke fight at pivotal point | Ryan hitting the trail for vulnerable Republicans | Poll shows Biden leading Dem 2020 field | Arizona Senate debate tonight Donald Trump Jr. blasts Beto O’Rourke: ‘Irish guy pretending to be Hispanic’ MORE (R-Texas) remained defiant, calling the bill approved by the Senate a "terrible deal." Cruz was seen by many as a cheerleader for House efforts to keep the pressure up on the health law.

Cruz was one of 18 Senate Republicans who voted against the final deal. Others included Sens. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulNoisy democracy, or rude people behaving like children? Lawmakers, Wall Street shrug off Trump's escalating Fed attacks Five things to watch for in deteriorating US-Saudi relations MORE (Ky.) and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioDating app for Trump supporters leaked its users data on launch day: report Overnight Defense: Trump says 'rogue killers' could be behind missing journalist | Sends Pompeo to meet Saudi king | Saudis may claim Khashoggi killed by accident | Ex-VA chief talks White House 'chaos' | Most F-35s cleared for flight Democrats torch Trump for floating 'rogue killers' to blame for missing journalist MORE (Fla.), two possible 2016 presidential contenders.

In the House, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), another possible 2016 candidate for the White House, split with his leadership and voted no.

House Republicans put on their best faces for the late Wednesday vote, and cast it as a setback in a larger battle to rein in government that they would not abandon. Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Citi — House postpones Rosenstein meeting | Trump hits Dems over Medicare for all | Hurricane Michael nears landfall Kavanaugh becomes new flashpoint in midterms defined by anger Juan Williams: The GOP can't govern MORE (R-Ohio) acknowledged to a Cincinnati radio host that “we just didn't win.”

Later, in a private meeting of the House GOP conference, BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Citi — House postpones Rosenstein meeting | Trump hits Dems over Medicare for all | Hurricane Michael nears landfall Kavanaugh becomes new flashpoint in midterms defined by anger Juan Williams: The GOP can't govern MORE told his colleagues, "We fought the good fight."

"We'll live to fight another day," he pledged, according to people in the room.

House Republicans seemed more unified after the meeting then over the last several days. Republican lawmakers gave Boehner a standing ovation in a show of appreciation of the tough job he had uniting the disparate factions of his caucus.

Conservatives said Boehner does not have to worry about fending off a coup, as many pundits speculated he would if he passed legislation to open the government by relying on Democratic votes.

During debate on the bill, Republicans focused on the tasks ahead, particularly the upcoming budget conference. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said he expects the two sides will be able to find a deal on 2014 spending levels, and is hoping for entitlement and tax reform.

"I'm optimistic that once this resolution has passed, the House and the Senate will come together in a budget conference to work out our broad fiscal and budgetary challenges," he said in comments on the floor.

One immediate test for negotiators is finding a way to reconcile Democratic demands for new tax revenue and GOP opposition to any new taxes. For several months, House Republicans have refused to meet with Democrats on the budget because of these Democratic demands.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) offered a glimpse into this upcoming fight late Wednesday, saying on the House floor that Democrats will fight to increase spending above the 2013 sequester levels.

"As we know, this number is too low," she said. "As even the chairman of the committee has said, it's an unrealistic and ill-conceived number, and must be brought to an end."

The final deal was negotiated by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellJuan Williams: Trump’s policies on race are more important than his rhetoric It’s Mitch McConnell’s Washington – and we’re just living in it Trump makes new overtures to Democrats MORE (Ky.), who began an intense round of negotiations with Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidSenate heads home to campaign after deal on Trump nominees GOP has always been aggressive in trying to weaponize the system of judicial nominations Republicans come full circle with Supreme Court battle to the end MORE (D-Nev.) at the end of last week after House Republicans proposed legislation to raise the debt ceiling while leaving the government shuttered.

Senate Republicans failed to win a delay of the law's medical device tax, which many wanted, but claimed a sliver of victory by keeping current spending levels locked in place for three more months.

The bill will grant back pay to an estimated 800,000 federal workers who were furloughed by the shutdown. The leaders also agreed to set up a Senate-House budget conference to negotiate broader fiscal reforms and report its work to Congress by Dec. 13.

It also allows for hundreds of millions of dollars more to fix flood-damaged roads in Colorado, and sets out reporting requirements for the administration on the issue of income verification under ObamaCare.

Some Senate Republicans, worried about the plunge of their party's approval rating in recent polls, argued Wednesday the standoff over government funding was not worth the battle.

"I never supported this strategy because I didn't think it was smart for the country of achievable," Sen. Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteElection Countdown: O'Rourke brings in massive M haul | Deal on judges lets senators return to the trail | Hurricane puts Florida candidates in the spotlight | Adelson spending big to save GOP in midterms GOP mulls having outside counsel question Kavanaugh, Ford Pallbearers, speakers announced for McCain's DC memorial service and Capitol ceremony MORE (N.H.) said.

She called the result "absurd" and noted ObamaCare's healthcare exchanges opened despite the shutdown.

Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeSenators pledge action on Saudi journalist’s disappearance Bernie Sanders: US should pull out of war in Yemen if Saudis killed journalist Senators warn Trump that Saudi relationship is on the line MORE (R-Utah), who with Cruz spearheaded the aggressive tactic, disagreed.

"The media keeps asking, 'Was it worth it?' My answer is that it's always worth it to do the right thing," he said. "Fighting against an abusive government in defense of protecting the individual rights of the American people is always the right thing."

Rep. Ted PoeLloyd (Ted) Theodore PoeCook shifts two House GOP seats closer to Dem column Five races to watch in the Texas runoffs Five Republican run-offs to watch in Texas MORE (R-Texas) took one last shot at Democrats, by reminding his colleagues that Obama argued against raising the debt ceiling when he was a senator in 2006, and George W. Bush was president.

“What was irresponsible and unpatriotic is all of the sudden responsible conduct? I think not,” he said on the House floor.

--This report was originally published on Wednesday at 10:22 p.m. and last updated on Thursday at 12:40 a.m.