Vice President Joe Biden offers sweet welcome, solace for returning bureaucrats

No guarantees ‘senseless’ shutdowns are over, he says

A muffin-bearing Vice President Joseph R. Biden greeted executive branch employees returning to work Thursday morning while cautioning that there are “no guarantees” that another government shutdown won’t happen in three months.

“There’s no guarantees of anything,” Mr. Biden told reporters as he welcomed Environmental Protection Agency workers at the agency’s headquarters in downtown Washington. “I hope everybody walks away with a lesson that this is unnecessary, and I hope we can regain the trust of the American people.”

The vice president said the 16-day shutdown that ended late Wednesday night was senseless. A bipartisan agreement struck by lawmakers extends the government’s operations until Jan. 15 and its borrowing authority until Feb. 7.

“What you saw last night is Democrats and a significant number of responsible Republicans saying, ‘Enough,’” Mr. Biden said. “There was no economic rationale for any of this. Budgets are supposed to be fought over economic issues. 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.”

Mr. Biden met workers at the EPA building named for former President Bill Clinton. It was a made-for-media event, with the vice president’s pool of media reporters setting up at the location in advance for coverage.

White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough (center) greets federal employees at the entrance to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House campus in Washington as they return to work on Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013. Lawmakers on Wednesday voted to avoid a financial default and reopen the government after a 16-day partial shutdown. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

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White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough (center) greets federal employees at ... more >

The vice president said EPA has a lot of work to make up after being idled for more than two weeks.

“One hundred and sixty-eight thousand people laid off,” he said. “No inspections on water and air and the Everglades. These guys not only took a hit and weren’t sure — I mean, the anxiety of knowing whether they’d get back or paid. But now they’re back, and they’ve got all that work piled up, so they’ve got a lot to do, so I’m not going to hold them up very long.”

As EPA employees arrived for work, they were handed a one-page advisory memo from EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.

“Dear friends, let me be one of the first to welcome you back to EPA and tell you that we have certainly missed you!” she wrote. “I know the past couple of weeks have been difficult, especially for families. But we are working to ensure your transition back to the office is smooth and as painless as possible.”

Ms. McCarthy also included tips about transitioning back to work.

“All government travel is canceled through October 20, 2013,” the memo said. It added, “Please remember to remove your ‘Out of office’ messages from email and voicemail and touch base with your supervisor on your immediate work priorities.”

A security guard at the EPA, Ettereteen Welch, said the shutdown was “depressing” and made her realize “how much I enjoy doing what I do.”

“I enjoy checking in 500 people every day,” she said.

Meanwhile, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough greeted executive branch employees returning to work at the White House on Thursday morning.

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