US media reports say the House of Representatives is set to vote on a new bipartisan deal to end the US government shutdown. The speculation comes hours before the deadline to raise the government's debt ceiling.
Republican House Speaker John Boehner said on Wednesday that the House of Representatives would not block a bipartisan Senate deal reached earlier in the day. The Republican leader's remark seemed to indicate that House Republicans would vote to raise the debt ceiling before the midnight deadline.
It was not immediately clear when the House vote would take place.
The latest deal emerged from a bipartisan Senate plan settled on Wednesday morning.
Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the new proposal would guarantee funds through January 15 and allow the government to avoid a default through February 7.
While speaking on the Senate floor, Reid praised his Republican counterpart, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, for his diligence and willingness to compromise.
"This is a time of reconciliation," Reid said, calling on fellow lawmakers to refrain from laying blame on each other for the political deadlock.
President Barack Obama praised the positive signs of an end to the shutdown and shortly after the announcement, according to White House spokesperson Jay Carney.
"He looks forward to Congress acting so that he can sign legislation that will reopen the government and remove this threat from our economy," Jay Carney told reporters.
A failure to agree on extending the United States' $16.7 trillion debt limit (12.38 trillion euros) by midnight will cause the US government to default for the first time in its history. Beginning on Thursday, the US Treasury would be forced to pay its debts in cash and incoming tax revenue. The Washington Post has said the treasury has only $30 billion on hand, while the New York Times put the figure at $35 billion.
The uncertainty surrounding the country's finances prompted Wall Street ratings agency Fitch Ratings to warn on Tuesday that its AAA credit was at risk.
Deadlock hampers efforts
Efforts to reach a deal failed miserably on Tuesday when Republicans in the House of Representatives rejected a shutdown solution plan that included parts of Democratic Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid's and Republican Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's proposal to raise the debt limit through February 7 and end the shutdown.
Republican House Speaker John Bohner had scheduled a vote in the House for Tuesday, but then cancelled it at the last minute after failing to garner enough support.
The government shutdown began 16 days ago when Republican lawmakers refused to raise the debt ceiling as a part of a political strategy aimed at dismantling President Barack Obama's signature health care law. The move has, instead, angered many Americans and lowered Republicans' approval rating among the public.
According to a Washington Post/ABC News survey published earlier this week, 74 percent of Americans disapprove of the Republicans' handling of the financial standoff, compared to a 53 percent disapproval rating for Obama.
kms/ipj (AP, Reuters)
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