Federal employees across Long Island furloughed during the 16-day government shutdown were told to suit up for work Thursday morning after Congress finally agreed to re-open the government, ending a 16-day shutdown that dangerously put the United States on the brink of default.
The deal, struck by U.S. Senate leaders after Republican leaders in the House of Representatives were forced to give up on their quest to defund Affordable Care Act as part of a deal to end the shutdown, meant that LI’s two national parks—Sagamore Hill National Historic Site and Fire Island National Seashore—would be open to visitors, though in the case of Sagamore Hill, only its grounds as renovations continue on Theodore Roosevelt’s Oyster Bay home.
“We are open!” Sagamore Hill wrote on its Facebook page.
The end to the 18th government shutdown in four decades allowed staffers at Plum Island Animal Disease Center to head back to work Thursday, as well as employees at U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Great Neck.
Students at the academy, forced to use their spring and fall vacations so they wouldn’t miss more than two weeks of classes, will return to the academy Monday, said Ted Dogonniuck, a U.S. Merchant Marine Academy spokesperson.
Despite the significance of government re-opening, nobody appeared to be in a congratulatory mood.
“Tonight, I supported a bipartisan agreement to reopen the government and prevent the U.S from defaulting on its obligations,” Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) wrote his Facebook page. “It is unfortunate that it took 16 days to put an end to this reckless shutdown, however I am hopeful that going forward my colleagues will agree that we must always work together in a bipartisan way to ensure that this kind of stalemate never happens again.”
Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), who bucked his party during the shutdown and was an outspoken critic of many Tea Party members in the Republican Party, continued his attack on Twitter Wednesday.
The agreement to reopen the government is a victory for America and a defeat for @SenTedCruz.
— Rep. Pete King (@RepPeteKing) October 16, 2013
President Barack Obama, who refused to put the Affordable Care Act, his top legislative achievement, on the negotiating table, said there “were no winners” when lawmakers agreed to end the stalemate.
“These last few weeks have inflicted completely unnecessary damage on our economy,” Obama said, thanking federal employees and welcoming them back to work. “We come from different parties, but we are Americans first.”
A continued shutdown would’ve had other consequences on LI: Calverton National Cemetery and Brookhaven National Laboratory warned that they would eventually have to furlough their employees.
“If the shutdown lasted much long than it did, impacts to our programs and to our employees would have been unavoidable,” BNL said in a statement Thursday.
Under the new deal, the government will be funded through Jan. 15, which means another showdown between this dysfunctional Congress could be on the horizon.
-With Timothy Bolger