Federal workers return to jobs after Congress ends shutdown
By Erin McClam, Staff Writer, NBC News
The federal government blinked back to life Thursday, hours after Congress swerved at the last minute to dodge a threatened economic catastrophe. Hundreds of thousands of furloughed workers were ordered back on the job after 16 days idle.
At the Capitol, where the House voted in the dead of night to end the standoff over the budget, tours — for a clearly frustrated American public — were set to resume, and the visitors center prepared to open its doors.
The U.S. Geological Survey, the people who map mountains and measure earthquakes, posted a simple message on Twitter at sunrise, 16 days after its last tweet: " … and we're back."
Barricades came down at national monuments. The Smithsonian museum said it would open again Thursday, but other institutions needed a little more time to get back to business. The gates of the National Zoo will open Friday, the halls of the National Gallery of Art on Saturday.
The Office of Management and Budget, which oversees the executive branch, posted a notice: "Open. Employees are expected to return for work on their next regularly scheduled work day" — Thursday, for most of them.
The restart came after votes in the Senate, by 81-18, and the House, by 285-144, to end the shutdown and extend the government's power to borrow money.
President Barack Obama said between the votes: "We'll begin reopening our government immediately and we can begin to lift this cloud of uncertainty from our businesses and the American people."
Independent economists and the treasury secretary had warned that, at an undetermined point as early as Thursday, the government was at risk of running out of money and defaulting on its bond payments.
World investors hold more than $12 trillion in American government debt and were watching the deadline closely. The stock market staged a big rally Wednesday after it became apparent that a deal was in the works in Washington.