Thursday, October 17, 2013

State operations back to normal as federal shutdown ends

By Jamey Dunn 

Illinois budget officials say operations returned to normal today after the federal government reopened.

According to Gov. Pat Quinn’s budget office, all laid off state workers are back on the job. Federal workers were also asked to report back to work today. And for now, programs that were potentially threatened by a loss of funding, such as Head Start, are in the clear. The federal measure will fund the U.S. government through January 15 and extend the so-called debt ceiling to February 7.

Only one member of the Illinois congressional delegation voted against legislation, approved last night, to extend the funding of the government, as well as the country’s ability to pay its bills. U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren, a Winfield Republican, said he voted against the agreement because it would not help reduce the country’s deficit. “It’s ridiculous to pay lip service to addressing our debt every few months and then do nothing,” he said in a written statement about his vote. “Procrastinating on our debt endangers our economic well-being. If we cannot address this problem now, after what this country has endured — then when?”

However, enough Republicans backed off their demand that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, be defunded or delayed to approve the extension an avoid a potential default. U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, a Republican from Taylorville, who signed on to a letter to House Speaker John Boehner that urged a push to defund Obamacare, voted in favor of the bill that has, at least temporarily, ended the federal shutdown. “From the very beginning of this debate I’ve stated that while I remain opposed to Obamacare, a government shutdown is absolutely unacceptable. Since then, I’ve voted for multiple bipartisan bills to reopen parts of the federal government while hoping that cooler heads would prevail and Republicans and Democrats would come together and negotiate in good faith. Today is no reason to celebrate because Congress finally did what we were sent to Washington to do — govern,” he said in a prepared statement. “That is why I voted in support of the bipartisan agreement to reopen the government and remove the threat of default, which could have had disastrous effects on an already-fragile economy.”

As the clock begins ticking on the new deadlines, lawmakers are set to return to negotiations over the federal budget. “For the past 16 days, my neighbors and all Americans needlessly suffered from a government shutdown and fear of a U.S. default on our national debt. Small businesses in my district had SBA loans and contracts with the government delayed. Federal employees who honorably serve our country went without paychecks, and veterans had many of their programs suspended. Tragically, even death benefits for family members of our fallen military heroes were put on hold. The American people deserve better,” said U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth, a Democrat from Hoffman Estates. “It was absolutely essential that Congress vote to reopen our government and raise the debt ceiling, and I am relieved that we can move forward as a nation. Now, the real work of creating a budget that invests in our economy and reduces the national debt begins.”

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