Obama reopens government, seeks restart of agenda
The president delivers a mid-morning speech to urge Congress to take up legislation on jobs, immigration and farm policy, while federal agencies that have been shuttered for 17 days begin resuming operations.
“I’ve got some thoughts about how we can move forward in the remainder of the year and stay focused on the job at hand, because there is a lot of work ahead of us,” Obama said during brief remarks Wednesday night at the White House.
Also on the agenda: Avoiding another shutdown in three months.
The agreement that the Senate and House approved Wednesday night funds the government only through Jan. 15. In the interim, Obama’s team and Congress will try to negotiate a longer-term spending plan.
The shutdown deal also averted the risk of a debt default by extending the government’s borrowing authority until at least Feb. 7, though that deadline could be pushed back if the government utilizes special measures.
Still, another debt ceiling dispute is in the offing in four months.
The White House announced early Thursday that Obama had signed the bill to end the partial shutdown of government services.
When the shutdown began Oct. 1, the lapse in government funding caused the furloughs of some 800,000 government workers. That number fell to 350,000 after Congress agreed to let Pentagon employees return to work.
The shutdown did not affect a litany of essential services, from delivery of mail to Social Security checks.
The new funding agreement restarts all federal agencies and services, from the World War II Memorial — the closure of which inspired protests by conservatives — to the “panda-cam” at the National Zoo.
National parks and weather services will reopen across the country, as well as large swaths of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Interior Department, and NASA. The deal also includes back pay for furloughed workers.
Sylvia Mathews Burwell, director of the Office of Management and Budget, sent guidance to federal agencies early Wednesday about restarting operations “in a prompt and orderly manner.”
In his remarks at the White House, Obama said the short-term agenda includes “our need to earn back the trust of the American people that has been lost over the last few weeks,” during an intense political dispute over the shutdown and the debt ceiling.
Lawmakers can start “by addressing the real issues” that Americans care about, Obama said, citing jobs, immigration, the economy, a farm bill, and the size of the federal debt as prominent examples.
Obama said he is willing to work with anybody — “Democrat or Republican, House or Senate members” — on ideas to “grow our economy, create new jobs, strengthen the middle class, and get our fiscal house in order for the long term.”
That includes upcoming efforts on the debt ceiling and new spending plans to avoid future government shutdowns.
“Hopefully, next time, it won’t be in the 11th hour,” Obama said. “One of the things that I said throughout this process is we’ve got to get out of the habit of governing by crisis.”
As the president exited the White House press room, a reporter asked: “Isn’t this going to happen all over again in a few months?”
Obama turned and replied: “No.”
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