Editor’s note: This article has been updated following the signing of the bill to fund the government into law by the president.
By Wendy Osher
Visitors can again watch another sunrise at Haleakalā, after an agreement was reached in Congress on Wednesday to end what has been a 16-day partial shutdown of the federal government.
The popular Maui destination has been closed to the public since Oct. 1, resulting in a projected monetary loss of $6,800 per day in entrance fees.
The park reopens today, but officials say visitors can expect limited services over the next 24 to 48 hours, as the park reopens buildings, turns on utilities, and resumes normal staffing levels.
A deal to prevent a default on the nation’s loans, gained passage in both the Senate and the House on Wednesday, and was signed into law by President Barack Obama last night.
The deal ends a 16-day partial shutdown of the federal government, funds operations through Jan. 15, 2014, and raises the debt ceiling through Feb. 7, 2014. It also requires that the House and Senate agree on a budget by Dec. 13.
Governor Neil Abercrombie released a statement Wednesday afternoon saying he is pleased that Congress has, “finally reached an agreement that will allow the federal government to fully operate again.”
“Like other states and counties, Hawaiʻi was placed in a fiscally vulnerable position where benefits, programs and jobs were on the line. We continue to monitor the situation hour by hour and day by day,” he said.
“Fortunately, the State of Hawaiʻi has seen signs of our economy rebounding and, due to prudent management by this administration, we were equipped to weather the three weeks of the government shutdown. However, we do not want these circumstances to arise again, putting our progress in jeopardy. Since this ‘new deal’ will only be in place for a short term, we must remain vigilant regarding our finances,” said Governor Abercrombie.
The governor arrived in Washington, DC, on Wednesday to meet with the Hawaiʻi congressional delegation and his former colleagues.
His work included discussion with US Senators Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono, as well as White House officials. Today, the governor plans to meet with Representatives Colleen Hanabusa and Tulsi Gabbard, as well as with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Earlier yesterday, US Senator Brian Schatz joined a bipartisan group in voting for the deal today saying, “This shutdown caused terrible, unnecessary pain for Hawaiʻi families, and we are all relieved that it is nearly over. It’s time for Congress to get back to work, and focus on helping the middle class.”
Fellow US Senator, Mazie Hirono also voted in support of the measure saying, “It should be clear that dysfunction is not the proper way to govern.” She said, “The shutdown was senseless and hurt people and businesses in Hawaiʻi and across the country, resulting in layoffs, lost wages and uncertainty for families.”
According to information released by Senator Hirono, Standard & Poor’s estimated that the two week shutdown cost the US $24 billion in potential economic activity. Another report estimates that Congress’ budget fights, debt-ceiling stand-offs, and spending cuts have cost the nation nearly $700 billion in lost economic activity, according to Senator Hirono.
Fellow Hawaiʻi delegate, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard joined her House colleagues in voting in favor of the measure to re-open the federal government immediately and prevent the government from defaulting. After gaining initial passage in the Senate, the item passed in the House tonight by a vote of 285-144.
“For more than two weeks, hard-working families, veterans, and federal workers have suffered due to partisan fights which cost our economy $300 million per day,” said Congresswoman Gabbard in a press release this evening.
“I am relieved that we are finally moving forward today with a bipartisan agreement that will protect our economy and allow time for a larger agreement on a long-term budget and fiscal plan,” she said.