A staffer delivers a cart full of pizzas at the US Capitol in Washington DC. (AFP)
Washington, Oct. 16 (Reuters): The US Senate announced a last-minute deal today to avert a historic lapse in the government’s borrowing ability and a potentially damaging debt default, and to re-open the government after a two-week shutdown.
But even if the Senate and House of Representatives manage to overcome procedural hurdles to seal the deal before tomorrow — when the treasury says it will exhaust its borrowing authority — it will only be a temporary solution that sets up the prospect of another showdown early next year.
President Barack Obama quickly endorsed the deal and urged Congress to approve it swiftly, the White House said.
Spokesman Jay Carney, briefing reporters on Obama’s reaction to the deal, said the agreement will re-open the government and remove the threat of a debt default.
Major US stock indexes rose more than 1 per cent on optimism that lawmakers were finally reaching a deal to end the week’s-long fiscal impasse.
Senate majority leader Harry Reid and Republican leader Mitch McConnell announced the agreement on the Senate floor, where it was expected to win swift approval after a main Republican critic of the deal, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, said he would not use procedural moves to delay a vote.
Weeks of bitter fighting among Democrats and Republicans over Obama’s signature healthcare reform law led to a partial government shutdown on October 1, sidelining hundreds of thousands of federal workers.
Cruz and other Republicans backed by the conservative, small government Tea Party movement want to repeal or delay the healthcare law.
The initial fight over the healthcare law turned into a bigger argument over the debt ceiling, threatening a default that would have reverberations around the world.
“If we don’t get a default, it would be like Y2K. People were staying up all night worried about what would happen during that deadline. Then nothing happened,” said David Keeble, global head of interest rate strategy with Credit Agricole Corporate & Investment Bank in New York, referring to worries about the millennium computer bug in 2000.
Both Democrats and Republicans are confident that the US House of Representatives will have enough votes to pass the bipartisan Senate plan, a top Democratic aide said.
Aides to House Speaker John Boehner, the top Republican in Congress, called senior Senate staff to say the House would vote first on the measure, the aide said. It appears certain to be approved with mostly Democratic votes, the aide added.
Boehner has been under fierce pressure from conservative members of the House not to call a vote relying on Democratic votes, and his job may be on the line if they continue their opposition to the Senate deal.
Lawmakers are racing against time. While analysts and US officials say the government will still have roughly $30 billion in cash to pay many obligations for at least a few days after October 17, the financial sector may begin to seize up if the deal is not finalised in both chambers.
“Today is definitely not the day to be conducting any serious business as traders across the globe will be hypnotised by their TVs/terminals and anxiously waiting for something to hit the news wires,” Jonathan Sudaria, a trader at Capital Spreads in London, wrote in a client note.
The deal that emerged today would basically give Obama what he has demanded for months: A straight-forward debt limit hike and government funding bill.