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Short-term spending deal reopens government, sets stage for budget battle ahead

October 17, 2013 at 12:00 AM EST
The U.S. government went back to work after Congress passed a bill that ended a 16-day shutdown and temporarily raised the debt ceiling. President Obama called on lawmakers to work together, while a small budget group began meeting in hopes of reaching a long-term solution. Congressional correspondent Kwame Holman reports.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Our lead story tonight: The federal government was back at work today after votes last night in the House and Senate, and a presidential signature, ended a 16-day shutdown. The deal also raised the nation’s debt ceiling, removing the threat of default.

But the short-term agreement set up the possibility of new showdowns to come early next year.

NewsHour congressional correspondent Kwame Holman begins our coverage.

VICE PRESIDENT JOSEPH BIDEN: Welcome back, everybody.

KWAME HOLMAN: The vice president greeted workers returning to the Environmental Protection Agency with hugs, handshakes and breakfast.

JOSEPH BIDEN: By the way, I didn’t bring enough muffins. I brought muffins.

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KWAME HOLMAN: Tens of thousands of federal employees were back on the job after last night’s agreement — elsewhere, other signs of things returning to normal. In the nation’s capital, popular tourist sites reopened. The National Zoo’s beloved Panda Cam came back online, although the zoo remained closed until tomorrow.

The Senate’s Ohio Clock resumed ticking, its timekeeper no longer furloughed. And national park sites across the country, from the great Smoky Mountains to Alcatraz Island, welcomed back visitors.

But, at the White House, President Obama said, despite the late-night congressional action, Americans were completely fed up with dysfunction in Washington. He called on lawmakers to put aside partisan differences and work together for the good of the country.

PRESIDENT PRESIDENT OBAMA:Now that the government is reopened, and this threat to our economy is removed, all of us need to stop focusing on the lobbyists and the bloggers and the talking heads on radio and the professional activists who profit from conflict, and focus on what the majority of Americans sent us here to do.

KWAME HOLMAN: The president outlined three priorities for the remainder of the year: passing immigration reform and a farm bill, plus reaching a long-term budget deal.

That process got under way this morning, with the four top budget writers in Congress meeting for breakfast. Afterward, neither side offered any guarantees.

Republican Paul Ryan chairs the House Budget Committee.

REP. PAUL RYAN, R-Wis.: I want to have a budget agreement that works for the country. I want to have a budget agreement that gets this debt and deficit under control, that does right by future generations and helps us grow the economy. And we’re going to try and figure out if we can find an agreement to do that.

KWAME HOLMAN: Democrat Patty Murray heads the Senate budget panel.

SEN. PATTY MURRAY, D-Wash.: Chairman Ryan knows I’m not going to vote for his budget. I know that he’s not going to vote for mine. We’re going to find the two common — the common ground between our two budgets that we both can vote on. And that’s our goal.

KWAME HOLMAN: The budget group was formed as part of the plan approved by Congress yesterday that funds the government for just three months, until mid-January, and increases the debt limit through February 7. The deal passed the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support.

But only about a third of House Republicans voted for the proposal. Many of those voting no said the deal failed to rein in the president’s health care law. While the cloud of uncertainty temporarily had been lifted from the Capitol, concern lingered about the economic consequences resulting from the latest political standoff.

Standard & Poor’s estimated the shutdown trimmed $24 billion from the nation’s economic activity. The president said the crisis not only had caused financial pain, but hurt America’s reputation as a global leader.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:Nothing has done more damage to America’s credibility in the world, our standing with other countries, than the spectacle that we have seen these past several weeks. It’s encouraged our enemies. It’s emboldened our competitors. And it’s depressed our friends, who look to us for steady leadership.

KWAME HOLMAN: A long-term budget resolution is not expected come soon. Most lawmakers left Washington last night following the vote.