April 17, 2014

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UPDATED: Government partially shuts down after Congress fails to reach deal

A National Park Service employee posts a sign on a barricade to close access to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington Tuesday.  (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

A National Park Service employee posts a sign on a barricade to close access to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington Tuesday. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

WASHINGTON — Congress plunged the nation into a partial government shutdown Tuesday, forcing some 800,000 federal workers off the job as a protracted dispute over President Barack Obama’s signature health care law reached the boiling point. Obama readied a midday statement to the nation while Democrats and Republicans at the Capitol blamed each other for the first shutdown in nearly two decades.

“Closed” signs and barricades sprang up early Tuesday at the Lincoln Memorial and other monuments, and the National Park Service was turning off 45 fountains around the capital city. National parks from Acadia in Maine to Denali in Alaska followed suit, as did many federal workplaces.

Agencies like NASA and the Environmental Protection Agency were virtually shuttered.

But people classified as essential government employees — such as air traffic controllers, Border Patrol agents and most food inspectors — continued to work. So did members of the military and employees whose jobs are financed through fees, such as State Department workers who issue passports and visas.

In a letter to federal workers, Obama lamented that they have become “punching bags” in a partisan fight.

With the Republican-controlled House and Democratic-controlled Senate at stalemate, it was unclear how long the shutdown would last, or whom the public would blame for unanswered phones and locked doors. Whether students shut out of Smithsonian museums or homebuyers wanting government-backed loans, some Americans already were filling the pinch and the effects were expected to spread.

The economic toll on a fragile economy was a worry, too. More than a third of the federal civilian workforce was furloughed — equivalent to the combined workforce of Target, General Motors, Exxon and Google — and many do jobs that private businesses rely on.

The Senate early Tuesday rejected the House’s call to form a negotiating committee to resolve the deadlock over health care and financing the government.

Moments after the vote, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., laid full blame on House Republicans, declaring, “The government is closed because of the irrationality of what’s going on on the other side of the Capitol.”

But Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said GOP lawmakers were listening to constituents who want to “stop the runaway train called the federal government.” Their message, he said, is “Stay strong.”

Obama communications director Jennifer Palmieri told MSNBC that the White House was open to changes in the health care law in future negotiations, but not as part of passing a budgetbill. She compared that to negotiating with “a gun pointed to your head.”

Obama was meeting with citizens signing up for his health care program on the opening day of enrollment before making a statement about the shutdown in the Rose Garden.

In the House, conservative Rep. Marsha Blackburn predicted the standoff might drag on for days if Obama and Senate Democrats refused to bargain. “People are going to realize they can live with a lot less government,” Blackburn, R-Tenn., told Fox News.

Another Republican, Rep. Scott Rigell of Virginia, whose Norfolk-area district includes tens of thousands of military members and their families, tweeted “We fought the good fight. Time for a clean CR” — referring to a continuing resolution that would reopen the government without addressing health care.

The health care law itself was unaffected Tuesday as enrollment opened for millions of people shopping for medical insurance.

It was the first shutdown since a budget battle between Republicans in Congress and Democratic President Bill Clinton in the winter of 1995-1996.

Congress itself was affected. Some staffers were furloughed and hearings were postponed. The U.S. Capitol canceled tours not personally led by lawmakers. Democratic Sen. Tom Carper sent an email to his Delaware constituents telling them not to expect responses to their emails and phone calls.

Lawmakers and the president were still getting paid, however, at a rate totaling more than $250,000 per day. Most of the nation’s 2.1 million civilian federal workers were either working with their pay suspended or on unpaid furlough.

The Supreme Court operated as usual, even welcoming tour groups, but was at risk of running low on money if the shutdown lingers beyond Friday.

Tourists were left with few other government options. The Smithsonian website displayed a red banner noting that “all Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo are closed.” On the zoo’s website, panda mom Mei Xiang could be seen snuggling with her weeks-old cub through the morning, until the feed was abruptly cut off around 8 a.m. Care of the animals will continue behind the scenes.

The White House was operating with a skeletal staff. A groundskeeper working outside Tuesday morning at daybreak said he was doing the job normally handled by four workers.

Given the shutdown, White House officials were discussing whether Obama should change plans for a trip to Asia scheduled to begin Saturday.

The military will be paid under legislation freshly signed by Obama, but paychecks for other federal workers will be withheld until the impasse is broken. Federal workers were told to report to their jobs for a half-day but to perform only shutdown tasks like changing email greetings and closing down agencies’ Internet sites.

The self-funded Postal Service will continue to operate and the government will continue to pay Social Security benefits and Medicare and Medicaid fees to doctors on time.

The Senate twice on Monday rejected House-passed bills that first sought to delay key portions of the 2010 “Obamacare” law, then to delay the law’s requirement that millions of people buy medical insurance. Early Tuesday the House named negotiators for what would be a Senate-House conference to work out differences on the bill. The Senate rejected that gambit.

As the standoff continued, some Republicans voiced nervousness.

Republican Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma called the shutdown “a big mistake.” Interviewed on MSNBC, Cole called on House and Senate negotiations to end the impasse.

The order directing federal agencies to “execute plans for an orderly shutdown due to the absence of appropriations” was issued by White House Budget Director Sylvia Burwell shortly before midnight Monday.

The spending bill at the center of the fight would fund the government only through Nov. 15 if the Senate gets its way or until Dec. 15 if the House does — and even an agreement to reopen government temporarily might do little to fix the underlying standoff.

House Speaker John Boehner had sought to avoid the shutdown and engineer passage of a “clean” temporary spending bill. But tea party activists mobilized by freshman Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, mounted a campaign to seize the must-do measure in an effort to derail Obamacare.

  • Beentheredonethat

    Leave it shut down until obama is forced to eliminate the generous subsidies he granted congress and there staff for Obamacare! Why are they any better than the rest of us!
    After all obama is the one always demanding fairness!

    • stop ur whining

      the subsides for congress where always going to be there as the us government employees more than 50 people. part of the law. the entire congress being exempt was a non story for the get go.

      • bpbatista

        Wrong. The law specifically did not permit subsidies to go to Congress or Congressional staff. Obama and the Democrats unilaterally and illegally gave themselves subsidies not permitted by law.

        • stop ur whining

          wrong…..couldn’t be more wrong. look it up, get back to me. wrong wrong wrong.

          • bpbatista

            According to the Congressional Research Service:

            “Congress, with support from the President, enacted a piece of legislation that rather starkly requires Members and staff to either payfor their own health insurance out of their after-tax incomes, obtain coverage under a spouse’s plan, or purchase coverage in the new exchanges (subsidized for those with family incomes that qualify).”

            Moreover, the study revealed that nowhere in the law is OPM given the authority to pay “the government contribution to a plan that is not one of the
            plans contracted for by OPM.” And, per Section 1312(d)(3)(D) of Obamacare, as of January 1, 2014, “the only health insurance plans that Members of Congress and their staffs can be offered are health insurance
            plans ‘offered through an Exchange established under this Act.’”

            Furthermore, the study also found the law does not have a provision “which codifies the statutes governing federal contracting and procurement—that supersedes the grants and limitations of OPM’s contracting authority” regarding the subsidization of insurance
            premiums.

            “There does not seem to be any way that OPM can rescue Members of Congress and their staffs,” the study concluded.

          • Conservator440

            Another example of the liberal mantra: What is good for thee is not good for me.

  • CharlesMartel732

    “You don’t get to extract a ransom for doing your job, for doing what you’re
    supposed to be doing anyway, or just because there’s a law there that
    you don’t like,” Obama said Monday,

    This from the man that has shredded and endrunned the Constitution since he took office. As 0′s Czar Cass Sunstein likes to say ‘we wanted to use the power of persuasion, instead we will use the persuasion of power.’

    • stop ur whining

      never any facts from you ever. you are not even worth lreading. anyone can spout off at the mouth and make statements. until you have any facts to back it up you just come off as a fool.

      • Conservator440

        One fact that Charles would submit is one more than contained in your statements.

        • stop ur whining

          congrats, no one said so little in so many words. fool, nothing but a fool .

          • Conservator440

            To see the fool, sir, look into thy mirror.

  • Conservator440

    Our president, smug and
    self-righteous, stood defiant, unwilling to give an millimeter on any
    issue, because he was elected by the people, and his willing stooges in
    the Senate of the United States, shut down the government, at least a
    little bit of it. Had he not gotten his way, he most likely would hold
    his breath and turn blue, then stomp his feet and have a hissy fit.

    A reporter, with the Statue of Liberty in the background, is
    explaining how this monument can only be viewed from afar as the
    National Parks Service is not working now. And this reporter was from
    Fox News. I was waiting for her to wail about the panda-cam being off
    too. The very symbol of our nation, of our liberty, is the one being
    held hostage. The government is in pause to protect the very concept
    that the statue represents. And so many of the low-info and democrat
    deafened masses don’t or won’t get it.

    All the nonsense about Republicans being arsonists, extortionists,
    strapping bombs on their chests is so much hyperbole, and completely
    misdirected. I hope that the President and his willing stooges all have
    the union cards–for the projectionists union. They should all be
    working in theaters as their blathering is nothing more than projection.

    The sad part is that those who voted for Santa Claus will continue to
    do so, no matter how bad things get. I have long said that no one will
    stop voting for their meal ticket. Apathetic voters stayed home rather
    than vote for Romney, even though the current occupant of the White
    House proved even then that Romney was a thousand times better choice.
    Obama was re-elected by attrition and slick marketing. And a lot of us
    let it happen. Chief Justice Roberts was right, the Supreme Court is
    not here to right electoral wrongs.

    Yesterday, the President gets in front of his favorite thing in the
    world–a TV camera and boldly proclaims that Obamacare in THE LAW and
    there is no right to change it.

    Well, Mr. President, Plessy vs. Ferguson was THE LAW at one time, and it too was wrong, and was repealed.

    For you Dems and low info people, Plessy v. Ferguson was the
    “Separate but Equal” law passed after the Civil War. It established Jim
    Crow laws in the South.

    Funny, with the treatment of certain interest groups, Obamacare is
    the Separate but Unequal law because as you all know, rank has its
    privileges. And having a high rank in the eyes of our Dear Leader,
    levels your playing field while the rest of us have to pick through the
    scraps left by the ruling elites.

    • stop ur whining

      you are missing what the president was saying entirely. he was saying shutting down the government is pointless because it does not stop the ACA and never would have. it is all grandstanding and nothing more. Republicans are not the problem. The tea party is the problem. they make sensible people vote left bc they are too extreme. case in point, shutting down the government for no reason. the exchanges opened today, as they would have if they had reached an agreement. a government shutdown stops nothing. that was what the president was saying.

      • Conservator440

        I beg to differ with you, sir or madam. The President is employing the tactic of the presumptive close in a sales situation. All he has been doing is selling, doesn’t bother governing, always selling to an already eager audience to choke on every word he speaks. Obama’s presumption is that he is right, and everyone else is wrong that does not lockstep with him. There are times when one must run into a wall before sense returns to them. The only way that the issue will even be broached is with the impenetrable wall of a fiscal crisis staring you in the face. Eventually his arm will be twisted behind his back enough to cry “Uncle (Sam?)”

        The tea party people are not the problem either, for they (we) have the same role as in the original. Make a statement. Bring attention to the issue. And there are way more that think this way than you want to believe.

        I notice you say nothing about it being THE LAW. There is no law that cannot be repealed or amended. You believe in the status quo and this has been the course until the fundamental transformation to socialism began that fateful November night in 2008.

        In reference to grandstanding,explain the Flintstone sized gavel that Queen Nancy carried in her procession to the passage of Obamacare? The bill passed only because of a whole lot of arm twisting, not a single Republican vote, and a procedural trick courtesy of Harry Reid. But that may be shortsighted for the Constitution clearly states that all revenue measures (taxes) must originate in the House of Representatives. Obamacare was introduced in the SENATE. The Supreme Court has declared this a tax. A Federal lawsuit is winging its way to the Supreme Court holding the ACA as being unconstitutional as the chamber of origination was not the Constitutionally stipulated one. Even the blindest, deafest and most entrenched liberal justice won’t be able to contradict that. And if they do, they need to be impeached.

        The exchanges may be open, but that hardly dictates success. Once this hot mess collapses, and it will, the democrats will be the only ones who own it, along with the RINO’s like Rep. King and Sen. McCain.

        Sure, use stars and Hollywood for your propaganda arm. The real test is if young people actually go completely against reason and buy into it. We know that the mind numbed liberals will do so, at least a representative amount. If the real numbers are ever reported, we will see what is the truth.

        Go live in your alternative universe. We will be here with the brooms to sweep up your mess.

        • stop ur whining

          I said nothing of it being law, but you still had to throw that in to mask the main issue. You believe that Obama thinks he is always right? isn’t that the pot calling the tea kettle black. You are a member of a party that is far more than you claim. you are a religious mob that believes God should play a role in government. you believe that homosexuality is a disease that should be eradicated while you champion a ban to abortion. But those are just a few minor details to being a member of the tea party. you MUST believe that democrats are stupid, and lazy and never have anything worth looking at. The tea party should rule god willing over America and its dolts. Any republican that sees any different isn’t a real republican and may as well be as evil. You are far more than the original member that tossed some tea into a bay. you are a member of a party that preaches intolerance and hate.

          luckily, your party has already begun to be seen for what they are. it has already cost red states their seats. what is better than that. a red incumbent loses the primary to a tea party member only to get creamed in the general election bc people see them for what they are. WAY to radical to be any good. you are going to see it unfold in the next election. when you do, remember my words. good day.

          • Conservator440

            It is quite apparent that you are either irreligious, a-religious, non-religious and most likely, anti religious. Why is that? Does religion put too many restraints on your appetites? Does it make you realize that you mistake license for freedom? Perhaps it just bothers your poor widdle conscience. No matter. From the things I have read here, religion is your issue.

            The United States was founded on Judeo-Christian principles and the philosophies and systems that emanated from it, aka Western Civilization. The Constitution guarantees a freedom of religion, not from it.

            If the Tea Party is a religious mob, then you must be of the same mob mentality that brought us the French Revolution. Tea Party, a mob if you wish, was the one who started the American Revolution. There were principles behind it. Your mob got their jollies out of the National Razor. I would much rather be part of a religious “mob” than your godless one where every man’s whim rules.

            Please show me ONE, just ONE instance of intolerance and hate on the part of a tea party member? Objectively probable, not MSNBC or HuffPo puff pieces. Try all you want–it isn’t there. Breitbart’s outfit still has a hundred grand for the taking once anyone proves racial slurs were hurled at black congress members on the day of the Mallet Walk by Nancy Pelosi. Your side is loaded with examples of intolerant and violent behavior. Now what was that saying about living in glass houses?

            It is said that we deserve the government we vote for, and this is so true with this one. The sword of racism always hanging over the head of anyone who dare disagree with the exalted leader. You won the last election by a combination of slick marketing, racial issues, and apathy on the part of the opposition.

            As time goes on, the people will see the mistake and I pray that they do not make another one like it, by voting in socialists. I will now make a prediction, history will not be kind to Mr. Barack Hussein Obama. He will forever be known as the first mixed race president, and the one who nearly destroyed the great experiment known as the United States. And good day to you too.

      • Joe Smith

        Wanting smaller gov and less taxes should not be considered extreme that is the values our country was founded on, that is the problem and the Pres could have avoided the shut down by defunding Obamacare just as easily as people want the Repubs to cave in on what they want. Government period is the main problem including both sides

        • stop ur whining

          i couldn’t agree more. smaller gov and less taxes is a great thing. GREAT THING! it is everything else that the tea party stands for that is the problem.

          a religious mob that believes God should play a role in government. you believe that homosexuality is a disease that should be eradicated while you champion a ban to abortion. But those are just a few minor details
          to being a member of the tea party. you MUST believe that democrats are stupid, and lazy and never have anything worth looking at.

          • CharlesMartel732

            I am a Christian in the only sense in which He wished anyone to be sincerely attached to His doctrines in preference to all other!

            I am a real Christian – that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus Christ!

          • Conservator440

            Sounds to me like stop ur whining has some serious issues of his own. It always amazes me how some only describe themselves in terms of sexuality. Humans were created for much more than mere reproduction. Perhaps we have found that missing link…..

          • stop ur whining

            which is great for a personal view, but plays no role in government what so ever. or rather…should play no role

          • CharlesMartel732

            Those two quotes are by Thomas Jefferson.

            I’m sure you’d find fault with his and other founding fathers quotes about their religious beliefs to be disturbing as well?

          • Joe Smith

            I never seen any tea party member state that they want gays to die or anything of the sort, can you post a link or something to the tea party website or wherever you are getting this info? And you can say the same thing about Dems, they want to eliminate the killing of murderers by execution but are for the killing of innocent unborn babies, no different Thanks

  • bpbatista

    The government is being shut down so that Sherrod Brown and his Democrat cronies can keep the illegal Obamacare subsidies for themselves and their staffs. Oh, and to keep the job killing Obamacare medical device tax in place.

    Heckuva job Brownie!

  • CharlesMartel732

    “We can’t win,” said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.,

    Thank God this democrat never got elected to the Presidency. Why doesn’t Captain Capitulate change parties already? Or do us all a favor and retire.

  • Smira29595

    Talk WASTE someone is paid to keep up twitter account???? IF not why is it shut down?

  • CharlesMartel732

    Mr. Adams also said this: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”