Update: Furloughed Government Workers Return

By: The Associated Press Email
By: The Associated Press Email
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Hundreds of thousands of furloughed federal workers returned to work across the country Thursday morning after 16 days off the job due to the government shutdown that ended on Wednesday.

President Obama signed a bill to raise the debt ceiling and end the shutdown temporarily. It will raise the country's borrowing limit until February 7th and keep the government open until January 15th. Lawmakers hope to create a long-term budget deal by December 15th.

The president said Thursday the shutdown "inflicted unnecessary damage" to the U.S. economy and damaged America's credibility around the world. He said the way that business is done in Washington has to change.

The Senate vote Wednesday was 81-18. The measure went to the House where it passed by a margin of 285 to 144.

The Office of Personnel Management announced that workers should return to work on their next regularly scheduled work day, noting that is Thursday for most workers, who have been furloughed since the partial government shutdown began October 1st.

The office is encouraging agencies to be flexible for a smooth transition by allowing telework and excused absences in some cases.

The workers' presence will be felt on the roads and rails in the Washington, D.C. region where commutes have been less crowded over the past two weeks. Metro reported a 20 percent drop in ridership when the shutdown began and has said it lost a few hundred thousand dollars each day.

From Rep. Lee Terry

Congressman Lee Terry (R-NE) issued the following statement after voting for the budget agreement reached earlier by Senate Leaders:

“The fight is on spending now so that we can borrow less in the future and balance our budget sooner rather than later. I’m frustrated the President refused to negotiate to get our spending issues under control, but we can’t allow America to go into default.

"The consequences of higher interest rates on families’ budgets and current government debt would negatively impact job growth, our economy, people’s retirement and our nation’s ability to conduct business. Our national debt needs to be the priority because we can’t continue to mortgage the future.

“The practical reality is the battle to fight Obamacare is best done with an open government and during the now mandated spending negotiations. This fight is not over by a long shot.”

From Rep. Adrian Smith

Congressman Adrian Smith (R-NE) issued the following statement after voting for the plan

"Divided government requires both sides to negotiate and find common ground. While this legislation is far from ideal, it is the only option at this point to end the current stalemate and continue negotiations over our long term fiscal challenges including the President’s health care law.

“I thank the many Nebraskans who contacted my office to share their thoughts, concerns, and ideas in recent weeks. For the sake of our country, I am hopeful both sides will continue talking and can avoid a similar stalemate when this short-term agreement ends. The fiscal challenges our country faces still need to be addressed.”

From Rep. Jeff Fortenberry

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry also voted in favor. In advance of the vote he issued a statement saying, "We have to get the government back to work and pay our bills. The paralysis of recent weeks has severely damaged the institution of Congress and the Presidency, frustrated the country, and further weakened economic stability."

Senate passage came Wednesday evening, several hours after Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced the bipartisan compromise.

Congress had faced a deadline of 11:59 p.m. Wednesday. That's when Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew had said the government would reach the current $16.7 trillion debt limit and could no longer borrow to meet its obligations.

From Sen. Mike Johanns

U.S. Senator Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) voted in favor of the bipartisan agreement to re-open the government and prevent a default on our debt, while preserving the spending cuts signed into law in 2011. It passed 81-18.

“The compromise reached in the Senate rightly addresses what this debate should have focused on all along: reining in our debt and spending,” Johanns said. “The legislation passed tonight accomplishes the urgent matters of resuming government operations and avoiding a default on our debt while ensuring the overall spending limits remain in place for 2014 and beyond.

“The era of legislating to the edge of the cliff has to come to an end. Our nation’s fiscal woes are rooted in entitlement spending, and this agreement paves the way for important work to be done on long-term debt reduction that encompasses necessary reforms and strengthens entitlements."

The Heartland Senate Vote

  • Johanns (R-NE), Yea
  • Fischer (R-NE), Yea
  • Harkin (D-IA), Yea
  • Grassley (R-IA), Nay

From Sen. Chuck Grassley

In casting the lone dissenting vote among the four heartland senators, Chuck Grassley issued a statement saying, "There's been a lot of talk about the negative impact of not raising the debt limit, but there’s too little focus on the negative consequences of ignoring the $17 trillion debt.

"Government spending has exploded since 2008, increasing the national debt by $6 trillion. Obamacare is a drag on the economy and hurting workers' ability to find full-time jobs. Yet the President refuses to lead for fiscal responsibility, both short and long term, even with a government shutdown.

"This agreement raises the debt limit with no action on the debt. It’s a missed opportunity for forcing action to limit government and increase economic opportunities. America needs the President to roll up his sleeves and work with members of Congress to address the long-term fiscal problems of our country. Our grandkids depend on it.”

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