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Obama signs bill to end partial shutdown, hike debt ceiling

By Holly Yan, Tom Cohen and Greg Botelho CNN | 10/17/2013, 6:16 p.m.
After all the bickering and grandstanding, the billions lost and trust squandered, it was much ado about nothing.
President Barack Obama

(CNN) -- After all the bickering and grandstanding, the billions lost and trust squandered, it was much ado about nothing.

The partial government shutdown’s finally over. The debt ceiling debacle has been averted. Obamacare remains virtually unscathed.

The hardline House Republicans, whose opposition to the President’s signature healthcare law set this all in motion, got pretty much zip -- except maybe their reputations marred.

“To say we as Republicans left a lot on the table would be one of the biggest understatements in American political history,” Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina tweeted.

But it’s all temporary -- the cliched kicking of the can. In a few months, Congress will come back to fight the same battles.

For now, though, thousands of furloughed federal workers will return to work Thursday, the U.S. can pay its bills, and an economic superpower can again boast a functioning government.

Pundits will conduct a post-mortem of the bitter stalemate. And the public will look ahead to what’s next.

Last-minute save

Everything came together Wednesday on a frenzied night of deadline deals. Lawmakers toiled through the night, coming precariously close to hitting the midnight debt ceiling deadline.

The Senate brokered a bill to end the 16-day-long shutdown and raise the debt limit. The GOP-led House passed it. And early Thursday morning, President Barack Obama signed it into law.

But it wasn’t Republicans who made it happen; a majority of that party’s caucus actually voted against the measure. The bill passed 285-144, with overwhelming Democratic support and the approval of about 80 House Republicans.

Had Congress not approved a debt limit increase, the government would have started running out of money to pay its bills. Social Security checks and veterans’ benefits could have stopped. The markets could have gone into a tailspin.

And now that Congress has approved a temporary spending plan, the government can re-emerge from its partial shutdown. More than 800,000 furloughed employees can start coming back to work. More than 1 million others who’ve been working without pay will see paychecks again.

Federal workers should expect to return to work Thursday morning, the Office of Management and Budget said.

A temporary bandage

The country will now be funded through January 15, and the debt cushion has been extended through February 7.

But there are clues the country will go through this mess again.

The bill that passed Wednesday night doesn’t address many of the contentious and complicated issues that continue to divide Democrats and Republicans, such as changes to entitlement programs to tax reform.

“We think that we’ll be back here in January debating the same issues,” John Chambers, managing director of Standard and Poor’s rating service, told CNN on Wednesday night. “This is, I fear, a permanent feature of our budgetary process.”

For what it’s worth, the heads of the Senate and House budget committees -- Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington and GOP Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin -- will meet Thursday to try to tackle these budget divides. They’ll head budget negotiations intended to come up with a broader spending plan for the rest of fiscal year 2014, which ends on September 30.