After 16 days of dormancy, the government has reopened after Congress passed a bill that ended the first government shutdown in 17 years.
On Oct. 1, House Republicans and Democrats could not agree on a spending plan for the starting fiscal year, which resulted in the shutdown.
Congress passed a bipartisan plan Oct. 16 to reopen the government, raise the national debt limit and avoid a potential U.S. debt default.
“There is a lot of work ahead of us, including our need to earn back the trust of the American people that has been lost over the last few weeks,” said President Barack Obama during an address about the end of the shutdown. “We can begin to do that by addressing the real issues that they care about.”
The debt limit is the total amount of money that the United States government is authorized to borrow to meet its existing legal obligations, according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
The amount of debt that the government must issue to meet its existing legal obligations is determined based on previous spending and revenue decisions made over many years by Congresses and presidents of both parties.
“Raising the debt limit allows the government to meet those existing legal commitments to investors, seniors, soldiers and millions of other Americans,” according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s website.
If the debt ceiling were not raised, the country would have been under the threat of default. Default occurs when a debtor is unable to meet the legal obligation of debt repayment, according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
The “No Subsidies Without Verification Act Amendment” was signed Oct. 16, according to the bill summary.
Under the act, the debt limit has been increased until Feb. 7, 2014.
The agreement will grant additional funding to government agencies until Jan. 15. It also gives the Treasury Department the ability to borrow beyond the debt ceiling, according to www.congress.gov.
The budget limit resulting from resolution is 967.5 million according to the Congressional Budget Office.
The Senate passed the bill with 81 votes to 18, and the House of Representatives passed it with 285 votes to 144, according to the United States Senate Legislative Records.
Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and James Risch voted against the legislation, according to a news release from Sen. Risch.
“The United States faces serious long-term debt and spending challenges that we must confront now. Sadly, this deal kicks the can down the road for three months, and I could not sport it. The federal government continues to borrow too much, spend too much and intrude into the lives of Americans too much,” Risch said.
Risch said he hopes the president and his Democrat colleagues will offer serious proposals to find a solution instead of having another crisis in January.
“Congress established debt ceilings to provide the opportunity to debate the government’s spending habits. Unfortunately, continuing resolutions perpetuate the problem of keeping almost half the spending for the government on autopilot. We cannot continue this unrestrained spending. It is time to make the hard decisions regarding our dire fiscal situation, and I am going to keep the pressure on to get it done,” Crapo said.
Ashley Leach, a freshman studying communication, said she believes the shutdown needed to happen.
“The issues that were being argued over were essential to the American people. I believe that it was a good thing and even though it was inconvenient, it was necessary to see exactly where our government stands,” Leach said.
According to a study by Wallethub, Idaho was one of the states that was his the hardest by the shutdown. Because of Idaho’s reliance on loans from the US Small Business Association and reliance on federal contracting work, Idaho ranked ninth on the list of states most impacted.
“One of the biggest impacts that the shutdown had on the state had to do with public land issues,” said Amy Taylor, regional director for Sen. Risch.
According to the National Parks Conservation Association, 401 national parks, memorials and monuments have been reopened and now allow public access.
“Absolutely we are happy that the parks have reopened,” said Kati Schmidt, senior media relations manager for the National Parks Conservation Association. “Unfortunately, when they reopened , it involved an entire across-the-board cut for the entire park system. So the parks have already been doing more with less for certainly a long time.”
According to the Bureau of Land Management, Idaho has 3.4 million acres of public land, which is 21 percent of the state’s total land.
During the 16-day shutdown, there were forest fires in central Idaho, and U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management were unable to assess the damage until Oct. 17, according to The Associated Press.
The Bureau of Land Management is now beginning rehabilitation and stabilization to the areas affected by the fires, according to the U.S. Department of the Interior.
The “No Subsidies Without Verification Act” provided an additional $600 million for Forest Service firefighting, according to www.congress.gov.
Local governments have remained significantly less affected by the shutdown, according to the Washington Post.
“We have not seen any local government problems here in Rexburg with our local services,” said Blair Kay, the Rexburg city clerk. “The national and federal government has had problems with their services, but it was by choice what services they chose to curtail. The only thing that really has been affected locally has been Yellowstone National Park, as the park systems seems to be in target for affecting the public.”
According to an estimate from Standard & Poor’s, the financial impact of the shutdown was $24 million and reduced the projected fourth-quarter gross domestic product growth from 3 percent to 2.4 percent.
During the shutdown, approximately 800,000 of the 2.1 million federal employees were temporarily laid off without pay.
About 350,000 civilian defense employees were later called back to work, according to the Department of the Interior.
The other approximate 450,000 are now returning to work as government agencies are opening once again.
“Everybody is back to work, which is good,” said Col. Tim Marsano, a spokesman for the National Guard.