Mike Jawson was told to follow the news to find out if he’d be going back to work.
Returning to his offices Thursday at the Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center was exciting, Jawson said, but it also means getting up to speed after weeks of being shut down.
“It was very uncomfortable, wanting to work,” said the Center director. “Wondering how you are going to make up for it.”
Jawson and other center workers met with U.S. Rep. Ron Kind during the congress-man’s homecoming after weeks of trying to broker a deal to end the government shutdown.
“It was like pushing a boulder uphill, into a headwind,” Kind said.
Democrats conceded little in the showdown, but the agreement only delays another tough budget conversation for a few months, Kind said.
Early on in shutdown talks, Republicans sought to defund or delay the Affordable Care Act. Both parties reached a “last- minute” agreement to increase the nation’s debt ceiling as the country risked defaulting on its loans, Kind said.
“We were playing with fire,” Kind said. “And that’s something we shouldn’t be messing with.”
The final deal included a small measure to provide more oversight when people apply for insurance through the nation’s new health insurance marketplace. The measure won’t require much more than what the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services was doing anyway, Kind said.
Meanwhile, Sen. Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican who focused on Obamacare during the shutdown, likely caught heat from his own party, Kind said.
“Everyone was ganging up on Sen. Cruz,” Kind said. “I’m sure he heard from his colleagues.”
Kind called the 16-day shutdown an “embarrassing episode.” He apologized to USGS workers, who, like all federal workers, will receive pay for the time they missed while furloughed, thanks to a back-pay measure passed by Congress mid-shutdown.
“Congress has to stop using you as a pawn,” Kind said. “It’s not fair to you.”
The shutdown delayed much of the center’s research on invasive species such as Asian carp, and prevented workers from collecting samples when they were supposed to collect samples, Jawson said. Some of the work that could have been done in the past few weeks might now have to wait for spring because of the weather.
“It puts everything behind schedule,” Jawson said.
The shutdown-ending agreement reached Wednesday will allow the nation to continue borrowing until January. A long-term solution will be hard to come by, but any real consensus will have to begin with moderate lawmakers, working together from the center out, Kind said.
He pointed out that 144 Republicans in House still voted “no” on the agreement.