Early on Friday, Congress sent President Obama an ambitious budget and debt measure that averts a catastrophic national default and sets spending priorities for the next two years. The Senate voted 64-35 to approve the bill just after 3am EDT, with Democrats and Republican defense hawks uniting to overcome opposition from GOP presidential candidates Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas, who left the campaign trail to return to the Capitol and criticize the deal. Obama had negotiated the accord with Republican and Democratic leaders who were intent on steering Congress away from the brinkmanship and shutdown threats that have haunted lawmakers for years.
Former House Speaker John Boehner felt a particular urgency to get the legislation finished before leaving Congress, while many lawmakers wanted the issue resolved as they look ahead to elections next year. The agreement raises the government debt ceiling until March 2017, removing the threat of an unprecedented national default just days from now. At the same time, it sets the budget of the government through the 2016 and 2017 fiscal years and eases punishing spending caps by providing $80 billion more for military and domestic programs, paid for with a hodgepodge of spending cuts and revenue increases touching areas from tax compliance to spectrum auctions. (Read more government spending stories.)