Thousands of US federal employees reported for work Tuesday morning expecting to be sent home as the first government shutdown in 17 years began taking effect.
Only the essential staff would stay. The rest would go home and wait for word to return. An estimated 800,000 federal employees all over the country face an uncertain future.
The last government shutdown was during Bill Clinton’s presidency, and it had lasted 28 days in two batches between November 1995 and January 1996.
The federal government is the largest employer in the US with 3.4 million people on its rolls -- including those in the military, who, however, will not be impacted.
The shutdown will not impact others much as well. For now. Essential services such as schools, police, fire, hospitals, civic amenities are locally run and will thus remain unaffected.
Tourist attractions such as National Parks -- Yosemite; museums -- the Smithsonian; and national monuments -- the Statue of Liberty will be closed, however.
And “Closed” signs began springing up in and around DC early morning shutting down the National Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and George Washington’s house at Mt Vernon.
The White House ordered federal agencies to “execute plans for an orderly shutdown due to the absence of appropriations” in a Monday memo issued minutes before midnight.
Congress had until midnight to extend funding for the government. But it missed the deadline in a showdown over President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law.
In a move to kill the law, Republican-controlled House of Representatives proposed last week to defund it in a provision attached to the budget -- making latter’s
Democratic-controlled senate rejected it, as expected. The House sent back the bill, toning down its opposition to Obamacare a bit, demanding it be delayed by a year, not defunded.
The Senate rejected it on Monday, as its leaders had warned.
With the countdown on now for the shutdown, the House sent back the bill demanding delaying part of the healthcare law that makes it mandatory for everyone to buy insurance.
That too was rejected by the Senate.
President Obama tried to resolve the dispute in phone calls to Senate and House leaders, arguing Congress must do its job: pay its bills in time, and pass the budget in time.
But the healthcare law was not on the table.
Hours later, congress shut down the government.