US government shutdown ends as Obama signs bill

President Barack Obama

US President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama signed early Thursday a bill ending the two-week US government shutdown and extending the Treasury’s borrowing authority.

The White House announcement was the final piece in an agonizing political drama that had raised the prospect of an unprecedented US debt default and rattled markets around the world.

Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell said in a separate statement that the government will try to get back to full operating status as smoothly as possible.

“This has been a particularly challenging time for Federal employees and I want to thank our Nation’s dedicated civil servants for their continued commitment to serving the American people,” she wrote.

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Most employees furloughed for the past two weeks are expected back to work Thursday, Burwell said in a directive to federal agencies.

Moving with stunning speed, Congress voted Wednesday to end the 16-day-old government shutdown and avert the potential for the first major debt default in U.S. history in a deal that gave President Obama most of what he sought — an open government and more borrowing authority without denting Obamacare.

The Senate voted 81-18 to approve the deal and sent it over to the House, which quickly followed suit with a 285-144 vote on the measure — amounting to an almost complete surrender for the GOP.