HONOLULU (AP) — Rounding out a tough and frustrating year, President Barack Obama signed a bipartisan budget deal Thursday easing spending cuts and a defense bill cracking down on sexual assault in the military, as the president and Congress began pivoting to the midterm election year ahead.
Obama put his signature on both hard-fought bills while vacationing in Hawaii, where he has been regrouping with his family since Saturday. The bill signing marks one of Obama’s last official acts in a year beset by a partial government shutdown, a near-default by the Treasury, a calamitous health care rollout and near-perpetual congressional gridlock.
Although the budget deal falls short of the grand bargain Obama and congressional Republicans once aspired to, it ends the cycle of fiscal brinkmanship — for now — by preventing another shutdown for nearly two more years.
But the rare moment of comity might be short-lived. Hanging over the start of the year is a renewed fight about raising the nation’s borrowing limit, which the Treasury said must be resolved by late February or early March to avert an unprecedented U.S. default.
Both sides are positioning behind customary hard-line positions, with Republicans insisting they want concessions before raising the debt limit and Obama insisting he won’t negotiate.