Congress Ends Shutdown and Raises Debt Ceiling

The members of the House of Representatives and the Senate approved a legislation that ended the government shutdown and raised the debt limit late Wednesday. The move of legislators prevented a default that would potentially damage the slowly growing economy of the United States and the world economies.

Yesterday, Fitch Ratings warned that it might downgrade the “AAA” credit rating of the United States if lawmakers fail to extend the borrowing authority of the government to fulfill its obligations. The ratings agency placed the U.S. credit rating on a “rating watch negative,” despite its belief that the Congress will raise the government’s credit limit before the deadline.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell reached a last minute agreement, on Wednesday. The deal was supported by President Barack Obama and it was presented to the Senate and House of Representatives later that day for approval.

In the Senate, 54 Democrats along with 27 Republicans voted in favor of the legislation while 18 Republicans voted against it. In the House of Representatives, 198 Democrats and 87 Republicans voted yes while 198 Republicans voted no. House Speaker John Boehner voted in favor of the bill, but House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan voted against it.

“We fought a good fight. We just didn’t win,” said Boehner in an interview with Cincinnati radio on Wednesday afternoon.  On the other hand, Sen. Reid said, “This is a time for reconciliation,” while Sen. McConnell said, “Hopefully once we’ve gotten past the drama of the moment, we can get to work on it.”

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia commented on Fox News that he is “ashamed” with the actions of Washington, but he is hopeful that his fellow lawmakers will be able to “work it out” and reach a broader agreement.

President Barack Obama immediately signed the legislation early ending the hardly fought political battle in Washington. The bill provides funding for the government until January 15, and extends the borrowing limit until February 7.  It also retained the authority of the Treasury Department to use extraordinary measures to prevent default in the future.

In addition, the bill included a minor amendment in the Affordable Care Act or Obama Care, which sets a new procedure to verify the income of individuals who will receive subsidies health insurance costs. Furthermore, the legislations provided back pay for all federal employees furloughed during the shutdown.