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October 17, 2013

A deal: Voting to avoid default, open government

WASHINGTON (AP) — Up against one last deadline, Congress raced to pass legislation Wednesday avoiding a threatened national default and ending a 16-day partial government shutdown along the strict terms set by President Barack Obama when the twin crises began.

“We fought the good fight. We just didn’t win,” conceded House Speaker John Boehner as lawmakers lined up to vote on a bill that includes nothing for Republicans demanding to eradicate or scale back Obama’s signature health care overhaul.

The stock market surged higher at the prospect of an end to the crisis that also had threatened to shake confidence in the U.S. economy overseas.

A Senate vote was set first on the legislation, which would permit the Treasury to borrow normally through Feb. 7 or perhaps a month longer, and fund the government through Jan. 15. More than two million federal workers — those who had remained on the job and those who had been furloughed — would be paid under the agreement.

Across the Capitol, members of the House marked time until their turn came to vote.

Only a temporary truce, the measure set a timeframe of early next winter for the next likely clash between Obama and the Republicans over spending and borrowing.

But for now, government was lurching back to life. In one example, officials met to discuss plans for gearing back up at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, where 307 employees remained at work during the partial shutdown and more than 8,000 were furloughed.

After weeks of gridlock, the measure had support from the White House, most if not all Democrats in Congress and many Republicans fearful of the economic impact of a default.

Boehner and the rest of the top GOP leadership told their rank and file they would vote for the measure, and there was little or no doubt it would pass both houses and reach the White House in time for Obama’s signature before the administration’s 11:59 p.m. Oct. 17 deadline.

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