WASHINGTON — Congress gave final approval Wednesday night to a budget compromise that would temporarily reopen federal agencies and allow the Treasury to continue borrowing to pay the nation’s bills, averting the possibility of a default that could have seriously damaged the economy.
The 285-144 vote in the House followed an overwhelming vote in the Senate on the agreement negotiated by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to end a tense political standoff that shut down federal programs for 16 days and led to the furlough of hundreds of thousands of federal workers.
The deal makes no significant changes in President Obama’s healthcare law, which Republicans, particularly in the House, had previously demanded. Democrats provided the additional votes needed to pass the bill in the Republican-led House.
House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), speaking earlier to his rank-and-file, said the party lost the battle but would live to fight another day. But the compromise was welcomed by moderates who had questioned the Republican strategy of using a must-pass spending bill as leverage to force changes to the Affordable Care Act.
“I’m genuinely pleased that cooler heads have finally prevailed,” Rep. Charlie Dent, a moderate Pennsylvania Republican, said shortly before the vote. The bill, he said, “must be supported, but it should not be celebrated.”
“It’s not a win for anyone, particularly the institution of Congress or the presidency for that matter. The bill represents the conclusion of a difficult period from which I hope that many can draw important lessons.”
The bill provides funding to keep the government running through Jan. 15, and allows borrowing to continue through Feb. 7. It also provides that furloughed federal workers would receive back pay.
In brief remarks at the White House after the Senate vote, President Obama promised to sign the bill “immediately” and start reopening government agencies.