Congress Passes Bill To End Government Shutdown

The FCC will crank back up Thursday now that Congress has passed a bill to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling. The government, including the FCC, has been in shutdown mode since Oct. 1, and would have been unable to borrow starting Oct. 17 if the debt ceiling had not been raised.

The Senate vote was 81 to 18 while the House vote was 285 to 144, which means a majority of Republicans in both Houses voted against it, the latter despite speaker John Boehner's request that they vote for it. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had helped come up with the compromise bill.

Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) voted for the bill, according to the House Clerk's office, while Communications Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) voted against.

The bill funds the government through Jan. 15, when another round of sequester cuts is scheduled to kick in, and raises the debt ceiling until Feb. 7. The President said Thursday there would be no repeat of the stalemate/shutdown.

The FCC commissioners and a handful of essential staffers were not furloughed, but about 1,700 employees were. The FCC also stopped the clock on merger reviews and closed down its web site, which prevented filings and comments, including some issues with deadlines over the past couple of weeks.

Trade association TechAmerica welcomed the news, but warned that the shutdown "hangover" would be long and painful and that there was likely to be a rerun. "This mess has caused Americans to lose their jobs, companies to struggle and faith in the U.S. government to waiver," said TechAmerica President Shawn Osborne. "We cannot afford to do this again but we will. Without a budget and a long-term agreement, we will be right back here in a few months. How are companies to plan and invest? How are Americans to feel confident in the future of their economy?"

The National Association of Manufacturers agreed. "Today's agreement avoided immediate economic catastrophe, but President Obama and Congress have done nothing to address the underlying causes of our serious fiscal problems," said NAM President Jay Timmons. "All that is guaranteed is that we will find ourselves in this situation again in a few months. The President and Congress must find a way to work together—to avoid bringing us so close to default and meet the responsibilities placed on them by the American people."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.