Better late than never.
With hours left for Congress to finalize and pass legislation before the United States' borrowing authority expires, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, formally unveiled a plan Wednesday that will fund the government through Jan. 15 and lift the debt limit through Feb. 7.
The pair started negotiating earlier this week after attempted talks between President Barack Obama and House Republicans failed to come together. After coming close to a deal on Monday evening, they stepped aside Tuesday to allow the House to attempt to negotiate a solution. When the GOP leadership failed to craft a plan that could win sufficient Republican support, Reid (D-Nev.) and McConnell (R-Ky.) were back in the spotlight.
If the House votes first, it will allow the Senate to avoid procedural hurdles that could force them to spend extra hours waiting to pass the bill. Getting it through the House will likely force Speaker John Boehner to rely on votes from opposition Democrats. Although Boehner has tried to stick to the so-called "Hastert Rule" by not putting a bill on the floor of the House that doesn't have majority support within his own party, he has already had to do so several times this year and will likely have to do so again Wednesday.
On the Senate floor Wednesday Reid sounded like he was trying to avoid gloating over the deal, which is largely favorable to Democratic priorities: "We're going to do everything we can to change the atmosphere in the Senate, and accomplish something for the country," Reid said.
McConnell said the deal protects sequester cuts, part of the last budget agreement.
"It's been worth the effort," McConnell said. "Let's not understate the importance of the Budget Control Act. Preserving this law is critically important to the future of our country."
Still, congressional Republicans came up far short in their efforts to derail the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. The deal, with the government shutdown in its third week, yielded virtually no concessions to the Republicans, other than some minor tightening of income verifications for people obtaining subsidized insurance under the new health care law.
Sen. Ted Cruz lamented the deal.
"This is unfortunate, but nobody should be surprised the Washington is pushing back," said the Texas Republican, who ginned up the ultimately unsuccessful strategy of forcing a government shutdown and threatening national debt default unless Obamacare was repealed.
"This fight will continue until the American people can make D.C. listen," Cruz said Wednesday outside the Senate chamber. "The United State Senate has said 'Washington will do nothing.'"
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said President Obama "applauds" the Senate deal.
"He looks forward to Congress acting so he can sign legislation to reopen the government and lift this threat to our economy."
Reaction to Wednesday's deal was mixed.