News Column

Shutdown Ends, Federal Government Reopens

October 17, 2013

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President Obama (file photo)

The U.S. government started to reopen after a 16-day shutdown Thursday, restoring government services and putting furloughed federal employees back on the job.

At the same time, a potentially crippling U.S. debt default was averted.

"Employees should expect to return to work in the morning," White House Budget Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell said in a statement.

"In the days ahead, we will work closely with departments and agencies to make the transition back to full operating status as smooth as possible," she said. "This has been a particularly challenging time for federal employees and I want to thank our nation's dedicated civil servants for their continued commitment to serving the American people."

The government reopening and extension of the government's borrowing authority default came after the Senate, followed by the House, voted to reopen the government through Jan. 15, suspend the debt ceiling through Feb. 7 and lay the groundwork for talks over broader budget issues.

President Barack Obama signed the bill into law about 12:30 a.m. Thursday.

The Senate vote Wednesday night was 81-18, with 27 Republicans joining 54 Democrats in voting yes with Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

The House vote a few hours later was 285-144, with 87 Republicans voting in support of the measure. Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, voted for the bill, as did Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., voted against it.

All 198 Democrats who voted supported the measure.

"We fought the good fight," Boehner, who has struggled to control the conservative House faction, told WLW-AM, Cincinnati, before the congressional votes. "We just didn't win."

Obama, speaking shortly after the Senate vote, praised Congress for lifting a "cloud of uncertainty and unease from our businesses and from the American people."

But he said he hoped the damaging standoff would not be repeated.

"We've got to get out of the habit of governing by crisis," the president said, urging lawmakers to proceed not only with new budget talks, but with immigration changes and a farm bill as well.

"We could get all these things done even this year if everybody comes together in a spirit of how are we going to move this country forward and put the last three weeks behind us," he said.

The new law includes one minor change to the healthcare reform law, sought by Republicans -- who shut the government down in the hope of stripping the healthcare law of funding or at least winning delays in putting into place the registration program that opened Oct. 1, the shutdown's first day. The change creates new procedures to verify the incomes of some people receiving government subsidies for health-insurance costs.

The law also provides back pay for all federal workers furloughed during the shutdown.

The law's short-term funding maintains current spending levels. But the bill calls for broader budget talks by a House-Senate committee. The law sets a Dec. 13 deadline for that group to report back, but it has no mechanism guaranteeing a deal will be struck.

Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., was to have breakfast Thursday morning with House counterpart Ryan to start a new round of talks aimed at averting another crisis.

The measure also pays for aid to flood-ravaged Colorado and for fighting wildfires in Western states.

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Original headline: Shutdown ends, government reopens

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