WASHINGTON — U.S. government agencies were ordered to close for the first time in more than 17 years after lawmakers stalemated over Republican efforts to block President Obama‘s healthcare law.
More than 800,000 federal workers were to spend Tuesday, the first day of the new fiscal year, on unpaid furloughs as agency managers executed contingency plans for the costly process of closing down operations indefinitely.
The official word to shut down came from the White House just before midnight Monday. Hours earlier, the Senate, by a 54-46 party-line vote, killed a House measure that would have funded government agencies for six weeks but delayed key parts of Obamacare for a year.
The one exception to the legislative futility was a bill to ensure that military service members would be paid during the shutdown. Obama signed it into law late Monday night.
The House’s final legislative effort passed 228 to 201, mostly along party lines. It would have delayed for one year the requirement in the healthcare law that individuals have insurance or pay a fine and would have reduced benefits for members of Congress and some of their staff members.
Early Tuesday, the Republican-controlled House voted to set up a House-Senate committee that could seek a compromise in coming days. Democratic leaders in the Senate asserted that they would not negotiate under duress, however, and insisted that the House first pass a measure temporarily providing funds for government agencies.
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