Congress votes to avoid default, open government - Fox 2 News Headlines

Congress votes to avoid default, open government

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WASHINGTON (AP) -

Congress has passed legislation to reopen the partially-shuttered federal government and avert a potentially disastrous default on U.S. obligations, clearing the measure for President Barack Obama's promised signature.

Passage of the bill late Wednesday in the House and Senate ended a Washington-created crisis that closed much of government for 16 days. It came on the eve of the date the Treasury Department warned it would no longer be able to borrow to pay the government's bills.

The legislation was carried to passage in the House by strong support from Democrats and 87 yes votes from majority Republicans who had originally sought to use the measure to derail Obama's three-year-old health care law.
 
The legislation will reopen the government through Jan. 15 and permit Treasury to borrow normally through Feb. 7.

Highlights of the bipartisan agreement:

 
   GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN: Ends it immediately, finances federal agencies through Jan. 15. Workers furloughed without pay when the shutdown began Oct. 1 receive back pay.
 
   DEBT CEILING: Government's authority to borrow money extended until Feb. 7. Using streamlined procedures, Congress could vote to block the debt-limit extension, but that effort was certain to fail. No constraints on Treasury Department's ability to move funds among accounts once debt limit is reached, in effect extending government's ability to avoid default several weeks beyond Feb. 7 if needed.
 
   HEALTH CARE LAW: Department of Health and Human Services must certify it can verify income eligibility of people applying for government subsidies for health insurance. By next July 1, the department's inspector general must report on the agency's safeguards for preventing fraud.
 
   LONGER-RANGE BUDGET ISSUES: In accompanying agreement, House-Senate bargainers will negotiate over issues like budget deficits and spending levels. Bargainers must issue report by Dec. 13, but they are not required to come to agreement.
 
   OTHER ITEMS: No pay raise for members of Congress in 2014; $636 million for firefighting for the Interior Department and the Forest Service; Allows work to continue on Olmstead lock in the Ohio River between Kentucky and Illinois; Lets Federal Highway Administration reimburse Colorado up to $450 million for flood-damaged roads, exceeding usual $100 million cap.

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