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Congress passes bill ending fiscal crisis. What was it all about?

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(Read caption) President Barack Obama discusses the re-opening of the U.S. government.
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Yes, it’s finally over. The US government reopened Thursday morning, and the Treasury prepared for a normal day of paying the nation’s bills after Congress approved a bill to raise the debt ceiling and end the 16-day federal shutdown.

President Obama signed the measure into law shortly after midnight Thursday.

In the short term, the resolution of the fiscal crisis represented a decisive defeat for congressional Republicans. At the urging of tea party-aligned conservative members, the House GOP at first demanded the defunding of Obamacare in return for continued government spending. What it got was a slight tightening of procedures for the verification of income levels for those applying for Obamacare subsidies.

The legislation also sets up a process for a House-Senate conference on a long-term budget and tax plan for the nation.

“We fought the good fight. We just didn’t win,” said House Speaker John Boehner in an interview with an Ohio radio station.

For the medium term, the effects of the resolution are less clear. That’s because it leaves open the possibility that the whole thing can happen again in a few short months. The legislation ending the standoff funds the government only until Jan. 15. It raises the debt ceiling to a level that the United States will hit around Feb. 7.

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

The longer-term implication of the endgame may be this: It sets up an internal Republican struggle, if not for the soul of the party, for the nature of its approach to Washington governance in an era of divided partisan power.

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