The United States government is back in business. Early Thursday morning, President Barack Obama signed a bill to reopen the government. The budget bill, drafted by Senate late on Wednesday night, raised the government’s debt ceiling and averted a serious economic crisis. "With the shutdown behind us," Obama said after the Senate vote, "we now have an opportunity to focus on a sensible budget that is responsible, that is fair and that helps hardworking people all across this country."
Now that a settlement has been reached, formerly furloughed employees have returned to work, national museums and parks are reopening, and the government’s gears are slowly beginning to turn again.
Reaching an Agreement
Before the shutdown, a federal funding bill went back and forth between the Senate and the House. A major issue was whether or not the government would pay for changes in Obama’s healthcare plan. The Senate, with a Democratic majority, wanted to pass a budget that would fund the new healthcare law. But the House, which has a Republican majority, did not want government money used that way. Because an agreement could not be reached on a budget plan, the government was forced to partially shut down.
Sixteen days later, the two sides have come together to pass a measure that raised the country’s debt ceiling. The debt ceiling is the strict legal limit Congress places on the amount of money that can be borrowed each year. Had this agreement not been met by October 17, the U.S. may not have been able to pay its promised payments. This legislation, or law, will fund the government through January 15. During this time, Obama and Congress will work on a long-term spending plan.
Open for Operation
The effects of the two-week government shutdown were widespread. In addition to national parks, museums, memorials and monuments were off-limits to visitors. Workers at government-run organizations like NASA and the Environmental Protection Agency were furloughed. Part of the new legislation will pay back the 800,000 workers who were without pay during the shutdown.
Early Thursday, the Smithsonian Institution celebrated the government’s reopening on Twitter. "We're back from the #shutdown!" they wrote, announcing that museums would reopen Thursday and the National Zoo in Washington on Friday.
To the delight of many people, that also means the return of the zoo’s popular live Panda cam.