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US government reopens following airport chaos

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Federal workers have been without pay for over a month

President Trump Speaks On Border Security And The Government Shutdown Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

The longest government shutdown in history has come to a close — for now. President Trump said today that he would endorse a short-term resolution to reopen the government for the next three weeks. Congress quickly worked to approve the measure that received the president’s signature this evening.

Thousands of federal employees from agencies like the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) were furloughed at the end of December after lawmakers were unable to pass a series of bills to fund the government through the rest of the year. But as of Friday evening, the government has reopened until February 15th.

According to the Washington Post, federal employees won’t receive their back pay until well into next week. It is unclear whether contractors will receive back pay.

Tensions rose Friday after the FAA was forced to make significant changes to flight times and routes after the agency noticed a spike in employees calling for sick leave. Federal workers who are deemed “essential” are required to work during the shutdown without pay, and over 800,000 people missed their second paycheck this week.

“The results have been minimal impacts to efficiency while maintaining consistent levels of safety in the national airspace system,” the FAA said in a statement. Still, many travelers saw delays reaching 60 to 90 minutes in length.

Many other agency operations have been hampered or blocked entirely by the furloughs. The FTC, which has been investigating Facebook for last year’s series of consumer privacy violations, has had many of its employees furloughed as well. News broke last week that officials had met to discuss a multimillion-dollar fine for the social media company to penalize it for improperly handling user data, but that record-setting fine isn’t expected to drop until the government reopens.

Over the past few weeks, news broke that wireless carriers had been selling user location data to third-party groups that made the data easily accessible to bad actors. Lawmakers have called for FCC officials to provide a briefing as to how carriers were allowed to engage in this behavior, but FCC chairman Ajit Pai said he would be unable to provide that briefing due to the shutdown. Pai said that the FCC has been actively investigating carriers for selling this data, but that investigation has been halted as staffers were furloughed earlier this month.

The FCC’s hardware approval system was halted as well, potentially putting new device verification on pause. That system was reopened last week, but there aren’t any employees manning it. Pai and FCC commissioner Brendan Carr had to cancel their trips to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this month after travel funding was cut. It was the second year in a row that Pai missed the event.

Lawmakers now only have a few weeks to come to an agreement over border security before the government shuts down yet again. If an agreement is not reached before February 15th, government employees will be out of work once more.

President Trump said that if he does not receive funding for the southern border wall before the new deadline is reached, he will sign an emergency declaration authorizing him to dictate funds for the wall.