WASHINGTON -- Vice President Joe Biden rolled out the welcome mat to returning Environmental Protection Agency workers furloughed during the 16-day shutdown, offering muffins and his hope that Washington can avoid a repeat of the budget battle in three months.
"There's no guarantees of anything,” Biden said. “What you saw last night is Democrats and a significant number of responsible Republicans saying, ‘Enough.’ There was no economic rationale for any of this.”
Biden, during a brief break from shaking hands and offering hugs to dozens of EPA employees, said he hopes both parties learn lessons from the shutdown and that “we can regain the trust of the American people.”
“Economically we are the indispensable nation. ... And even for a moment putting our full faith and credit on the line, it's just not responsible. And I hope this is the end of this,” he said.
Biden arrived shortly after 9 a.m. EDT with a few cases of mini coffee cakes. He worried after seeing the long line of workers that he “didn’t bring enough.”
Agencywide, 94% of the EPA staff was furloughed by the shutdown. EPA administrator Gina McCarthy called it a “pretty big hardship for us”; Biden noted that during the shutdown there were no inspections on water and air and the Everglades, among other impacts.
“I think the most important thing for the staff was they actually want to work,” McCarthy said. “They do such important work and they just wanted to get to it. That’s why today’s a real celebration for us.”
A memo being handed to returning workers noted that some impacts of the shutdown will last. All travel is canceled through Sunday, and paychecks won’t resume until the end of the month. Workers will get back pay for the entirety of the shutdown period.