Let our next greatest achievement be realizing the dream of full equality for all of us ...

- Human Rights Campaign President, Alphonso David, as reported by Maiysha Kai -


The Government Shutdown Is Over

Tourists listen to a tour guide speak in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol on Oct. 17. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)
Tourists listen to a tour guide speak in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol on Oct. 17. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

Updated Thursday, Oct. 18, 12 p.m. EDT: President Barack Obama delivered remarks Thursday morning thanking Democrats and "responsible Republicans" for coming together and ending the government shutdown and averting the debt-ceiling crisis. 


While happy about "ultimately getting the job done," the president lamented the "unnecessary damage" to the American economy.

"But let's be clear, there are no winners here," Obama said during a speech at the White House. "These last few weeks have inflicted completely unecessary damage to our economy. We don't know yet the full scope of the damage, but every analyst out there belives it's slowed our growth." 


The president called on Congress to end the constant pattern of manufactured crises perpetuated by steep political brinkmanship. "We shouldn't fail to act on areas that we do agree or could agree just because we don't think it's good politics, just because the extremes in our party don't like the word 'compromise,' " he said. "And there's no good reason why we can't govern responsibly, despite our differences, without lurching from manufactured crisis to manufactured crisis.

"We come from different parties, but we are Americans first. That's why disagreement cannot mean dysfunction. It can't degenerate into hatred," he added. "The American people's hopes and dreams are what matters, not ours. Our obligations are to them. Our regard for them compels us all, Democrats and Republicans, to cooperate and compromise and act in the best interests of our nation, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

The president did not miss the opportunity to thank workers who were furloughed, or who had been working the past 16 days without pay. He gave them a heartfelt "welcome back." 

"I've got a simple message for all the dedicated and patriotic federal workers who've either worked without pay or have been forced off the job without pay these past few weeks, including most of my own staff: Thank you. Thanks for your service. Welcome back," Obama said. "What you do is important, and don't let anybody else tell you different."


The president wasn't the only high-ranking official to show his appreciation to the furloughed workers. Vice President Joe Biden, who has been absent these past weeks during negotiations, showed up at the Environmental Protection Agency headquarters, surprising workers and welcoming them back with muffins. 

"I am happy it's ended. It was unnecessary to begin with," Biden said, according to ABC News. "Budgets are supposed to be fought over economic issues. There was no economic rationale for this at all. And I hope, I hope everybody walks away with a lesson that this is unnecessary, and I hope we can regain the trust of the American people."


White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough was also spotted welcoming staffers back work, the Washington Post reports, although he didn't have any muffins. 

Updated Wednesday, Oct. 16, 10:35 p.m. EDT: Following in the footsteps of the Senate, the House of Representatives has passed the bill to raise the debt ceiling, less than two hours before the nation would have reached the limit on its borrowing power. 


The passage marks an end to a two-week deadlock, which partially shut down the government and cost the U.S. $24 billion. The bill, which passed with a 285-144 vote (all "no" votes being Republican), will now be handed over to the president, who is expected to sign it into law immediately. That means that the hundreds of thousands of furloughed workers could be back in their offices earning money as early as Thursday morning. 

Updated Wednesday, Oct. 16, 9:30 p.m. EDT: The Senate has cleared the first hurdle necessary to raise the debt ceiling and end the 16-day-old government shutdown, passing the bipartisan legislation overwhelmingly with an 81-18 vote, the Washington Post reports.  


The ball is now in the hands of the House of Representatives, with a vote expected later tonight. If things go smoothly in the Republican-led House — which up until now has been resistant to deals in an attempt to gut the Affordable Care Act — the bill could reach the hands of President Barack Obama in time to be signed into law before midnight hits and the nation runs out of its borrowing power. 

Updated Wednesday, Oct. 16, 4 p.m. EDT: The Washington Post reports that in an interview on The Bill Cunningham Show this afternoon, House Speaker John Boehner said he would "absolutely" allow the House to vote, regardless of what his majority thinks. The Republicans "fought the good fight" they "just didn't win," Boehner said, and there was no further reason to say no to the Senate, which has already agreed on a bipartisan plan.  


"We've been locked into a fight over here, trying to bring government down to size, trying to do our best to stop Obamacare," Boehner said. He added that there was no reason for the government not to be reopened by Thursday.

The Ohio Republican also released a statement Wednesday afternoon, reiterating that he had no intention of blocking a vote in the House for the newly proposed Senate bill that would end the government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling. Boehner, however, signaled that it won't be the last time Republicans go after the Affordable Care Act. The statement reads as follows:

The House has fought with everything it has to convince the president of the United States to engage in bipartisan negotiations aimed at addressing our country's debt and providing fairness for the American people under ObamaCare. That fight will continue. But blocking the bipartisan agreement reached today by the members of the Senate will not be a tactic for us. In addition to the risk of default, doing so would open the door for the Democratic majority in Washington to raise taxes again on the American people and undo the spending caps in the 2011 Budget Control Act without replacing them with better spending cuts. With our nation's economy still struggling under years of the president's policies, raising taxes is not a viable option. Our drive to stop the train wreck that is the president's health care law will continue. We will rely on aggressive oversight that highlights the law's massive flaws and smart, targeted strikes that split the legislative coalition the president has relied upon to force his health care law on the American people.


Updated Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2 p.m. EDT: The new Senate-proposed bill, which leaves Obamacare relatively untouched, is a blow for House Republicans who initiated the government shutdown by insistently demanding a gut or delay of the Affordable Care Act as a concession for passing the federal budget. Speaker John Boehner will likely need Democratic support to pass the bill. 

The deal includes a measure that allows Congress to vote on the debt-ceiling increase again on Feb. 7, Politico reports, although that move can be vetoed by the president. It also allows for furloughed workers to be paid, for proof of eligibility when asking for health insurance subsidies and for the Treasury to take "extraordinary measures" to pay its bills in February, should the need arise. 


Meanwhile, President Barack Obama commended the Senate's effort, indicating that he looked forward to signing the bill into law, the Associated Press reported.


(The Root) — The congressional deadlock could be nearing its end, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) formally announcing a bipartisan deal on Wednesday that would end the government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling through Feb. 17. The bill has yet to be passed by the Senate and the House or to be signed by the president, so it will be a race against time as the Thursday debt-ceiling deadline draws closer. 


However, even Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who has staunchly stood by the shutdown, has conceded. Though he made his dislike for the bill clear, he has said that he would not block a vote

The news that a deal has been reached comes shortly after news broke that the House of Representatives might take the first vote on the Senate-prepared bill. If Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) allows the House to take the first stab, whether or not conservatives  object, the House Democrats would have to pick up the slack in order for the critical vote to pass the lower chamber.


If the bill does pass the Republican-held House, it makes things easier on the Senate, knocking out certain routine protocols and requiring only one cloture vote before the bill could move on to final passage.  

It is uncertain when the final vote would occur. It has to come within the next few hours and still be signed by President Barack Obama in order for the government to avoid defaulting on its debts, which could wield a devastating blow to the nation's economy.


Just Tuesday, Fitch Ratings sent a warning to the United States by announcing that it was preparing for a potential U.S. credit-rating downgrade. The reason: political brinkmanship in Washington.

"Political brinkmanship and reduced financing flexibility could increase the risk of a U.S. default," Fitch said late Tuesday, according to the Washington Post. "The U.S. risks being forced to incur widespread delays of payments to suppliers and employees, as well as Social Security payments to citizens — all of which would damage the perception of U.S. sovereign creditworthiness and the economy."

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