US Congress passes debt deal to end crisis

Washington, Oct 17 (IANS) Less than two hours before a midnight deadline, the US Congress voted to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling ending a 16-day stand off that risked first ever debt default in American history.

The eleventh hour deal hammered out earlier by Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid his Republican counterpart Mitch McConnell received broad bipartisan support in both chambers.

The vote was 81-18 in the Democratic led Senate with only 18 of the 45 Republicans opposing and 285- 144 in the Republican controlled House that had engaged in a bitter budget fight to derail President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law nicknamed Obamacare.

In what was seen as a major victory for Obama, Republicans faced with the Oct 17 debt ceiling deadline conceded defeat as they were forced to accept a deal with only minor concessions from Democrats.

Shortly after the Senate vote Wednesday night, Obama said that if the House, as expected, follows the Senate in passing a deal to end the budget standoff, "I will sign it immediately. We'll begin reopening our government immediately."

"There's a lot of work ahead of us, including our need to earn back the trust of the American people that's been lost over the last few weeks," he said. "And we can begin to do that by addressing the real issues that they care about."

The bill now goes to the president's desk for signature to end the crisis that posed worldwide economic repurcussions.

The deal funds the government through Jan 15, raises the debt limit until Feb 7 and includes a provision in the deal that strengthens verification measures for people getting subsidies under Obamacare.

It also sets a mid December deadline for completing budget negotiations between the House and the Senate for a long-term spending plan.

Earlier Republican Speaker John Boehner signalled the end of the stand off with a formal announcement that Republicans will not oppose the bill en masse.

"The House has fought with everything it has to convince the president of the United States to engage in bipartisan negotiations aimed at addressing our country's debt and providing fairness for the American people under ObamaCare," Boehner said in a statement.

"That fight will continue. But blocking the bipartisan agreement reached today by the members of the Senate will not be a tactic for us."

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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