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Senate votes to avoid default, open government

  • House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio is surrounded by reporters as he walks on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON — Up against a deadline, Congress raced to pass legislation Wednesday night to avoid a threatened national default and end the 16-day partial government shutdown in the culmination of an epic political drama that placed the U.S. economy at risk.

The Senate passed the measure on a bipartisan margin of 81-18 at midevening. That cleared the way for a final, late-night vote in the Republican-controlled House on the legislation, which hewed strictly to the terms President Obama laid down when the twin crises erupted more than three weeks ago.

The legislation would permit the Treasury to borrow normally through Feb. 7 or perhaps a month longer, and fund the government through Jan. 15. More than 2 million federal workers would be paid — those who had remained on the job and those who had been furloughed.

At the White House, Obama hailed the Senate's vote. Once the measure reaches his desk, he said, "I will sign it immediately. We'll begin reopening our government immediately and we can begin to lift this cloud of uncertainty from our businesses and the American people."

Less than an hour later, as debate began in the House, Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky., said, "After two long weeks, it is time to end this government shutdown. It's time to take the threat of default off the table. It's time to restore some sanity to this place."

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.

Republicans conceded defeat after a long struggle. "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.

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