WASHINGTON – The federal government partially shut down Tuesday for the first time in 17 years after lawmakers in the House and the Senate could not agree on a spending bill to fund U.S. departments and agencies because of a Republican demand to delay or defund Obamacare.
The White House’s Office of Management and Budget formally began shutting down the government late Monday, ordering federal agencies to prepare for funding to expire and to execute contingency plans.
“Unfortunately, we do not have a clear indication that Congress will act in time for the president to sign a continuing resolution before the end of the day tomorrow, Oct. 1, 2013. Therefore, agencies should now execute plans for an orderly shutdown due to the absence of appropriations,” wrote OMB director Sylvia M. Burwell in a memorandum circulated at 11:45 p.m. Eastern time.
The federal government was shut down twice in 1995-96, when Bill Clinton was president and Newt Gingrich was the speaker of the House, but has not closed since then.
Burwell, as President Obama did repeatedly Monday, urged Congress to pass short-term legislation that would extend the funding for the remainder of the fiscal year and “restore the operation of critical public services and programs that will be impacted by a lapse in appropriations.”
In a message broadcast to U.S. military personnel broadcast at midnight, Obama said, “Those of you in uniform will remain on your normal duty status. Congress has passed, and I am signing into law, legislation to make sure you get your paychecks on time. And we’ll continue working to address any impact this shutdown has on you and your families.
“To all our DOD civilians—I know the days ahead could mean more uncertainty, including possible furloughs,” the president added. “And I know this comes on top of the furloughs that many of you already endured this summer. You and your families deserve better than the dysfunction we’re seeing in Congress. … That’s why I’ll keep working to get Congress to reopen our government and get you back to work as soon as possible.”
OMB will provide further guidance for federal employees, Burwell said. Many employees were planning to go in to work for part of the day Tuesday to collect belongings and return federal equipment, such as phone or computers. Those workers deemed exempt from the order will continue to work.
“We greatly appreciate your cooperation and the work you and your agencies do on behalf of the American people,” Burwell wrote.
Most of the 800,000 furloughed federal workers are supposed to be out of their offices within four hours of the start of business Tuesday.
Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., said, “Republicans played chicken with the government and our economy, and the American people lost.”
Rep. Denny Heck, D-Wash., said, “Thousands of federal employees at Joint Base Lewis-McChord will be furloughed tomorrow. Small businesses throughout the South Puget Sound will see delays in payments and loans from the federal government. Both Mount Rainier National Park and the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge will be closed. Every day our government is shutdown is another body blow to our economy.”
Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., urged the Republican-controlled House to take up a “clean” spending bill with no riders.
“This is no longer about spending cuts. We have accepted the funding levels Republicans demanded. House Republicans are simply more interested in playing politics and making unreasonable partisan demands that have nothing to do with the budget or securing our nation’s economy. This gamesmanship must end,” Smith said.
Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., issued the following statement: “House Republicans should be ashamed of themselves for playing politics at the expense of American families and our nation’s economy. They refused to allow a vote on a clean budget bill, despite all indications that it would have passed with bipartisan support. Because of their unyielding and extreme demands, House Republicans have forced the federal government to shut down.”
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said early Tuesday morning in Washington, D.C.: “Unfortunately, Senate Democrats chose to shut down the government rather than discuss or even recognize Obamacare’s failures. The best path forward right now is for both chambers to convene a formal conference committee where we can resolve our differences, and move forward on important legislation that gets control of spending and strengthens our economy. That’s the system the Founders set up for us, and it’s what the American people expect us to do.”