The U.S. government avoided default and unlocked its doors Thursday after 16 days, with President Barack Obama lambasting Republicans for the standoff he said had “no winners” and which damaged America’s credibility around the world.
The standoff between Democrats and Republicans "encouraged our enemies, it's emboldened our competitors and it's depressed our friends that look to us for steady leadership," Obama said during a White House news briefing just hours after signing a last-minute measure from Congress — a measure that adhered strictly to the original terms he had laid down some three weeks ago.
The deal allowed federal employees to return to work Thursday morning and headed off the threat the nation would default on its debts, at least for this year.
"There are no winners here," he said. "The American people are completely fed up with Washington."
The nation's credit rating was jeopardized, economic growth and hiring were slowed and federal workers were temporarily deprived of paycheques, Obama said, all because of "yet another self-inflicted crisis."
In hopes of averting another standoff when the just-passed measure runs out, Congress' four top budget writers met over breakfast to begin new budget talks. Obama urged them to put aside partisan differences and brinkmanship tactics to find common ground.
The deal, approved late Wednesday by Congress after being passed by the Senate, averted a default hours before the government reached its $16.7 trillion US debt limit. It also ended a government shutdown that had sent hundreds of thousands of federal workers off the job starting Oct. 1.
'We'll bounce back from this'
Obama also sought to ensure governments and investors around the world that the "full faith and credit of the United States remains unquestioned."
"We'll bounce back from this," Obama said. "We always do."
He called for three steps to a U.S. recovery from what he called the "manufactured crisis."
- A "balanced approach" during responsible budget talks in the coming weeks.
- A fix for America's "broken immigration system" by the end of the year.
- A farm bill.
Obama said all three could be finished by the end of the year.
The president closed by thanking the government workers who had been furloughed during the shutdown. He said the shutdown helped show how important the government is in the lives of Americans. "So let's work together to make government work better instead of treating it like an enemy or purposely trying to make it work worse," he said.
Anxiety about the long-term
The deal was welcomed around the world, but anxiety persisted about America's long-term stability. The fiscal feud could resume as new deadlines in January and February near, though some political experts suggested Republicans might not be so eager for another fight after seeing the party's approval plummet to record lows.
The impasse, fought over government spending in general and Obama's new health care program in particular, had shuttered national parks and monuments, and mostly closed down agencies such as NASA and the Environmental Protection Agency. Critical functions of government went on as usual, but the closure and potential default weighed on the economy and spooked the financial markets. Standard & Poor's estimated the shutdown has taken $24 billion out of the economy.
Republican House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner said: "We fought the good fight. We just didn't win."
The shutdown began when Republicans tried unsuccessfully to use must-pass funding legislation to derail the president's landmark health-care law.
The bill reopens the government through Jan. 15 and permits the Treasury to borrow normally through Feb. 7 or perhaps longer.