Federal Government Back in Business, For Now

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Washington is returning to normal Thursday after President Barack Obama signed a short-term bill ending the partial shutdown and averting a U.S. default.

"We can begin to lift this cloud of uncertainty and unease from our businesses and from the American people," the president said.

Many government workers were glad to be back on the job for the first time in more than two weeks.

"I am just happy to be going back," one federal employee said.

But though the government is back up and running, a new countdown has already begun. The bipartisan agreement -- crafted by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. - only funds the government till Jan. 15, increases the debt limit until early February, and preserves Obamacare.

In addition, the bill calls for back pay for government workers who have been furloughed.

Pass the Pork

But critics charge the bill also includes some pork-barrel items, including the following:

  • Nearly $3 billion to fund a dam in McConnell's home state of Kentucky
  • A provision to give $174,000 to the widow of Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., one of the richest members of Congress, an amount equal to his annual salary

Tea Party Republicans aren't happy, and they're vowing to continue fighting for change in Washington.

"This fight this debate will continue until collectively the American people can make D.C. listen," Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, vowed.

Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, said, "This is just a battle not the entire war."

Throughout the budget standoff, the news media have faulted Republicans for the shutdown. A Media Research Center survey shows the GOP was blamed 41 times, while Democrats weren't blamed at all.

But the battle did accomplish one thing: bipartisan budget negotiators finally sat down Thursday to begin work on a broader deal before the new deadlines hit.

"I want a budget agreement that gets this debt and deficit under control, that does right by future generations and grows the economy," Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said. "And we're going to try to figure out if we can find an agreement to do that."

But can they compromise?

"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 common ground between our two budgets that we both can vote on, and that's our goal," Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said.

The group has to buckle down since they have just eight weeks to accomplish what both sides admit is a monumental task.

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Lorie Johnson

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