Government back open after 16-day shutdown - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Government back open after 16-day shutdown

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    Friday, October 4 2013 3:43 PM EDT2013-10-04 19:43:45 GMT
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WASHINGTON, DC (FOX13) -
Federal employees in the Mid-South and around the nation went back to work Thursday after Congress voted to end the 16-day partial government shutdown and avoid default.

Safety inspectors are on the job, national parks are open, civil courts are hearing cases again, and the threat of the government defaulting on its bills is over -- at least for now.

Thursday morning the first Honor Flight of World War II and Korean War veterans from Wisconsin made its way into the World War II Memorial on the National Mall. Getting  ready for the trip these men weren't sure if they'd get to see the monument to their service and sacrifice.

"Coming here to look at these things and seeing them is just unreal," said one veteran. "I love it."

The memorial became a symbol of the government shutdown, the images of veterans pushing their way past the barricades.
Now things are back to normal here.

National Park Service employees were out in force Thursday morning removing barriers around the National Mall shortly after President Barack Obama signed the law opening the government. The closed signs came down and the National Park Service worked to clean up the monuments that sat idle for 16 days.

"It's just tragic when we have to turn people away," said Bob Vogel, Superintendent of the National Mall and Memorial Parks. "That's not our job. Our job is to open them up and tell the stories of America, and so we're very excited."

Park rangers were back on the job greeting  tourists from around the world. Tourists posed for pictures at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial around the Tidal Basin. Tour buses dropped school groups at the Lincoln Memorial and within moments the steps to the monument was filled with visitors.

"I'm thrilled that everything is back open and that people are out and about and the city is coming alive again," said one tourist. "It's wonderful."

But the Capitol dome looms large over the city, a reminder this is just a temporary solution. The barriers will go back up in January if Congressional leaders and the President can't work out a long-term solution.
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On Day 16 of the partial government shutdown and a day before the deadline to raise the nation's borrowing limit lawmakers make an 11th hour deal.

But there is more work to do to get it to President Barack Obama's desk for his signature.

Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker was going over a statement in his Washington, D.C., office Wednesday and was prepared to support a plan to end the 16-day government shutdown.

"This issue may be put to bed and dealt with very very soon today," Sen. Corker (R-Tenn.) said.

The last-minute plan was announced by Senate leaders. It funds the government through mid-January 2014 and allows it to keep borrowing through the first week of February 2014. The deal keeps mandatory spending cuts in place.

"For me, keeping those budget caps in place the sequester that went with it was very, very important," Sen. Corker said.

Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander is also ready to move beyond shutdown.

"I'm going to vote for opening the government and for paying our bills," Sen. Alexander (R-Tenn.) said. "I think that's a pretty easy vote. We got here because of some mistakes by the Republican party. I think we have to admit that."

The House will vote Wednesday and the measure will need votes from both parties to pass.

U.S. Congressman Steve Cohen (D-Memphis) said a compromise is long overdue.

"People have said why can't we work together," Rep. Cohen said. "If we were given a chance to work together and have the House Democrats and Republicans vote, we'd of had the Continuing Resolution passed on day one."

House conservatives aren't sold on the plan. U.S. Congressman Stephen Fincher (R-Jackson, Tenn.) is making his decision.

"We will look at it very closely today," he said. "Today I will talk to people back home constituents we have people calling all the time and ask there opinion what they think because that's what matters."
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(Tuesday's coverage of the Government Gridlock)

Another day of political maneuvering on Capitol Hill passes without a deal.

"This is madness," said U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Memphis). "I hoped coming into this week that there had been a method to the madness. Apparently there's only madness."

House Republicans proposed their own plan to reopen the government but pulled it from the floor Tuesday night.
President Obama and Senate Democrats said it was dead on arrival.

Congressman Cohen said House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) needs to push a bare bones plan to open the government and raise the debt limit.

"We are supposed to help create jobs and buffer the economy," Rep. Cohen said. "Instead we are acting against the best interest of the American people."

But Tea Party Republicans are standing strong they want concessions on Obamacare along with spending cuts.

"I know the American people are frustrated because I'm frustrated," said U.S. Congressman Alan Nunnelee (R-Miss.), who added his party won't roll over.

"We got into this disagreement over funding for Obamacare and I think that is the symptom," Rep. Nunnelee added. "But the bigger issue is as a nation we cannot continue to borrow money from our grandchildren to fund our government of today."
 
As things fell apart in the House, several Senators were meeting behind closed doors. U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Miss.) is one of 14 Senators trying to work out a way forward.

"This has to be resolved," Sen. Pryor said. "I mean we cannot play games with the US economy, cannot play games with the US credit rating. You just can't do that. It's incredibly irresponsible that they've allowed us to do it."

Sen. Pryor wants a long term solution to break the cycle of budget showdowns.

"I'm willing to open up some issues that some Democrats don't want to open up," he said. "We've have got to find ways to do this and ways to make it happen."

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FOX13's Matt Gerien is in Washington D.C. this week.

He'll be checking in with our local lawmakers figuring out what they're willing to do to end this shutdown and avoid a U.S. Government default.

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