On Wednesday evening, the Senate in a 81 to 18 vote, passed a bipartisan bill that would fund the government through mid-January 2014, and also raise the debt ceiling until February 7, 2014. The bill came about after Senate Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), frustrated at the lack of progress in the House at getting a "clean" CR to the floor for a vote, decided to spearhead an effort to pass a bill through the Senate that would find bipartisan support in the House. A group of Senate Republicans worked with Senate Democrats to hash out an agreement early in the week, which was finalized Wednesday. Late Wednesday evening, the House passed the measure with a vote of 285 to 144, including "yeas" from all voting Democrats (two abstained) and eighty-seven Republicans. President Barack Obama signed the bill into law, ending the 16-day government shutdown.
The CR does not contain any significant changes to the Affordable Care Act which had been the focus of disagreement at the start of the shutdown. It does include a provision requiring additional income verification by insurance exchanges prior to allowing an individual to receive a subsidy to purchase insurance in the new state insurance marketplaces. A White House spokesman said the administration found this provision acceptable, as it is not inconsistent with the law. It requires the Department of Health and Human Services to certify to Congress that the income eligibility has been verified properly by the exchanges.
The CR maintains the spending levels that have been in place due to the sequester implemented at the beginning of the year. It includes a provision to retroactively pay government employees who were furloughed during the shutdown. Additionally, the federal government will be allowed to pay back states for money they expended out of their own coffers for federally-funded programs. It also includes a provision that will allow the President to waive the debt ceiling unless overriden by Congress. This provision effectively means that the President may simply waive the debt ceiling unless a veto-proof majority of Congress votes to block it. The CR also sets up a budget conference which will have members from both parties from both houses. The conference has until December 13, 2013 to reach an agreement on a budget.
With the CR in place and funding secured for another several months, DC is open again, with hundreds of thousands of government employees returning to work. However, a budget has not been passed since 2009. Since that time, the government has been funded by a series of short-term CRs. Uncertainty hangs in the air as many lawmakers, commentators, and formerly furloughed workers question whether "governing by crisis" (as President Obama put it) is the new norm or if we can expect to go back to the norm of passing a budget on a regular basis.