Washington, DC, United States (4E) – The federal government reopened on Thursday after Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed into law a measure funding the government and raising the debt limit.
The bill funding the government until Jan. 15 and allowing the Treasury Department to borrow beyond the $16.7 trillion limit to pay debts until Feb. 7 was passed by the Senate via an 81-18 bipartisan vote on Wednesday evening.
The House then voted 285-144 to pass the same measure a few hours later. The approval was completed in less than three hours before Obama signed the bill into law shortly after midnight ending a 16-day government shutdown.
Federal workers return to work Thursday with assurance they will be paid for the time they were furloughed during the shutdown period plus a 1 percent raise in January as provided by the new law, according to a joint statement by Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and Sen. Ben Cardin, a member of the Senate Finance Committee. The law also aids flood-ravaged Colorado and provides extra cash for fighting wildfires in the West.
Obama issued a statement thanking and welcoming federal workers back as federal agencies, parks, museums and monuments began to reopen Thursday morning. But he expressed his displeasure to the shutdown.
“There are no winners here,” Obama said at the White House late Thursday morning. “These last few weeks have inflicted completely unnecessary damage on our economy.”
Obama also criticized Republicans, whom he blamed for the shutdown.
“You don’t like a particular policy or a particular president? Then argue for your position. Go out there and win an election,” Obama said. “Push to change it. But don’t break it.”
Republicans had opposed measures for funding the government and raising the borrowing authority without any changes in the Affordable Care Act. A House-passed bill defunding the so-called Obamacare was rejected and returned by the Democrat-led Senate on Sept. 30, a day before the legal budget for the fiscal year ended.
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Thursday he will not allow a government shutdown as a Republican strategy to repeal Obamacare, which took effect at the start of the shutdown on Oct. 1.
“There will not be a government shutdown,” The Hill quoted the senator as saying. “I think we have fully now acquainted our new members with what a losing strategy that is.”
McConnell said the best chance of repealing the healthcare law is when there is a Republican president in the White House and Senate or if it loses support from Democrats.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx.), however, did not rule out another shutdown when the government funding runs out in January. Cruz, who pushed the strategy of tying government funding to defunding Obamacare told ABC News he will continue to stop the law he believes is hurting people. He criticized the Senate for not being concerned with people whose health insurance premiums are skyrocketing because of Obamacare.