National Mall and Memorial Parks Superintendent Bob Vogel (right) welcomed back a worker (left) at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C., on October 17.
Late in the evening on October 16, 2013, members of Congress finally reached an agreement to reopen the U.S. government. Early the next morning, President Barack Obama signed a bill that ended the government shutdown.
For the first 16 days of October, parts of the federal government were closed while Senators and Representatives in Congress argued over the government’s budget. A government’s budget is a written plan of how it will spend money in a given year. Congress is required to pass a budget by September 30 every year to keep the government running. Because members of Congress could not agree on a budget, many government services and organizations were shut down. National parks and monuments were also closed.
The government shutdown happened because of disagreements between the two main political parties—the Democrats and the Republicans. Lawmakers from both parties disagree on how to deal with many issues facing the nation. This year, the two sides have been arguing over the Affordable Care Act, a health-care law that President Obama signed into law three years ago. Most Democrats support the law because they want more Americans to have access to affordable health care. Many Republicans, however, think the law will be too expensive for the American people and the government.
Many Republicans in Congress would not agree to a budget unless they could delay or change parts of the new health-care law. On the other hand, most Democrats would not agree to a budget unless the new health-care law was carried out without changes or delays. Finally, some members on both sides voted to allow the government to operate on the old budget for a few months. They hope that this extension will be enough time to work out their differences and pass a new budget that they can agree on.
On October 17, government employees affected by the shutdown were asked to return to work. National parks, such as Yosemite and Yellowstone, reopened for visitors. The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., also reopened, and its famous “panda cam” is back online. Astronauts and scientists went back to work at NASA. Government offices are once again providing services, such as food assistance and medical care, for those in need. President Obama thanked the government workers in a speech and welcomed them back to work.