Senate and House Announce Plans To End Crises

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Carolyn Kaster / AP

Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., walks to the Senate floor after agreeing to the framework of a deal to avoid default and reopen the government.

Updated at 4:10 p.m.

Senate leaders announced a bipartisan deal Wednesday to reopen government and raise the debt ceiling, moving the country closer to ending weeks of brinkmanship over Obamacare, federal spending and debt. Hours later, Speaker John Boehner met with his caucus to announce that he would allow a vote on the Senate package.

“This is not a time for pointing fingers or blame. This is a time for reconciliation,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in announcing the agreement, which would reopen the government and extend the debt ceiling through early next year. The bill will also appoint senators to work on a budget agreement over the next two months, in the hopes of avoiding another standoff in 2014.

Reid was followed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said Republicans would continue to fight to repeal President Barack Obama’s health care reform law, but there would be no victory this week. “For today, the relief we hope for is to reopen the government, avoid default and protect the historic cuts we achieved under the budget control act,” McConnell said.

In a written statement, Boehner echoed this message. “Blocking the bipartisan agreement reached today by the members of the Senate will not be a tactic for us,” he said.

A vote on the measure is expected later Wednesday.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Obama “applauds” the deal, and encouraged both chambers of Congress to expeditiously pass the legislation. But even with an agreement that represents an almost total victory for Democrats, Carney asserted, “there are no winners here,” given the negative effects of the shutdown.

As the Senate gaveled to order, House Republicans gathered to discuss their path forward. “Looks like we’ll eat the Reid-McConnell deal,” one House GOP source told TIME. “It’ll rely on Democratic votes.”

“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 the afternoon statement. “That fight will continue.”

Multiple Republican senators, including Kentucky’s Rand Paul, said they expect the Senate plan to pass with a strong majority of Republican votes. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, one of the original proponents of the failed plan to shut down the government to defund Obamacare, said he would not vote for the deal, but would also not try to block the Senate from moving forward.

The emerging agreement isn’t sitting well with some Republicans. Sen. Lindsay Graham, who has long argued for a grand bargain to address long-term fiscal issues, called it a “joke. “We took some breadcrumbs and left the whole meal on the table,” he said.

Graham continued to criticize the tactics the House Republicans have behaved over recent weeks. “The way we’re behaving and the path we’ve taken over the past couple of weeks leads to a marginalized party in the eyes of the American people,” he said. “It has been the best two weeks for the Democratic Party in recent times because they were out of the spotlight and didn’t have to showcase their ideas.”

Sen. Kelly Ayotte expressed hope that more conservative colleagues will not repeat their mistakes of the last month. “We’ve been asking from the beginning how does this end, how do you achieve what you’re purporting to achieve on defunding Obamacare,” she said. “And I never got an answer to that. I don’t think there still is an answer to that. So if we have learned nothing else from this whole exercise I hope we learn that we shouldn’t get behind a strategy that cannot succeed.”

According to a Senate Republican leadership aide, under the agreement, the government would be funded through Jan. 15, 2014 unless a budget agreement is reached sooner, while the debt limit would be raised through Feb. 7. The extraordinary accounting measures used to keep the government under the borrowing cap would not be prohibited under the deal. An anti-fraud measure will be added to Obamacare, requiring income verification for those receiving subsidies to purchase insurance under the law.

With reporting by Alex Rogers and Alex Altman/Washington and Noah Rayman/New York