The federal government reopened Thursday after a 16-day shutdown. The shutdown, triggered by Tea Party conservatives, rattled the already-fragile U.S. and global economies, closed federal agencies, furloughed hundreds of thousands of federal workers and drove the country to the brink of default.
Senate and House members pushed through an eleventh-hour spending deal to fund the U.S. government and raise the debt ceiling late Wednesday. President Obama signed the bill shortly after midnight.
But while the deal allowed some 800,000 federal workers to clock back in – including over 10,000 IAM-represented Service Contract workers and 110,000 National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE-IAM) Federal District 1 members – it’s merely a stopgap measure, possibly setting the stage for another showdown just after the new year.
The bill agreed upon by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will fund the government through Jan. 15, 2014 and extend the $16.7 trillion debt ceiling through Feb. 7. It includes back pay for unpaid and furloughed federal workers – but not Service Contract workers – and an agreement that both chambers would open a budget conference committee to address long-term budget issues, such as the impending second round of sequester cuts set to kick in on Jan. 15.
The shutdown began October 1 when Tea Party Republicans demanded the House of Representatives block government funding unless Democrats and Obama agreed to defund the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. In the end, all Republicans got for their two-week-long tantrum was a “fig leaf provision on Obamacare and record low approval ratings,” as the Huffington Post put it.
The futile exercise cost the country an estimated $24 billion in lost economic activity.
“The Republican Party – the self-described party of fiscal responsibility – took the entire country for a $24 billion ride on their own personal vendetta train,” said IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger. “They gambled with American lives. They used federal workers as bargaining chips. They nearly pushed the country into default. Working families must not forget and vote their outrage on Election Day 2014.”