USA: Congress Passes Bill Reopening Federal Government
President Barack Obama signed legislation late yesterday night bringing federal employees back to work after Congress finally resolved the budget logjam which led to a 16-day shutdown.
Senate leaders championed bipartisan legislation to reopen the government and remove the threat of government default on its debts. All federal government employees – including some 4,000 Defense Department employees – will report to work tomorrow.
The legislation is a continuing resolution that will provide federal government spending at fiscal year 2013 levels. This keeps the sequester-level budget in effect.
The act will keep the government open through Jan. 15 and raises the debt limit through Feb. 7. The act contains a provision for a joint Senate-House committee to work on a budget recommendation for fiscal year 2014. Those recommendations are due Dec. 13.
The legislation includes the provision to pay all furloughed employees for the period of the lapse in appropriations. The act calls for those employees to be paid “as soon as practicable.”
Even before the House of Representatives voted, President Obama signaled his intent to sign the bill. “We’ll begin reopening our government immediately,” he said in a White House appearance. “And we can begin to lift this cloud of uncertainty and unease from our businesses and from the American people.”
Obama asked that all political officials take the lesson of the gridlock to heart and work together to solve the nation’s problems.
“My hope and expectation is,” Obama said, “everybody has learned that there is no reason why we can’t work on the issues at hand, why we can’t disagree between the parties while still being agreeable, and make sure that we’re not inflicting harm on the American people when we do have disagreements.”
“So hopefully that’s a lesson that will be internalized, and not just by me, but also by Democrats and Republicans, not only the leaders, but also the rank-and-file,” he said.
As he was leaving the Brady Press Room at the White House, a reporter asked the president if the shutdown might not be duplicated in January. “No,” the president said and left.
Sylvia Matthews Burwell, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, said in a release federal employees “should expect to return to work in the morning.”
Press Release, October 17, 2013; Image: US Navy