Budget Deadline Passes, Federal Government Shuts Down
WASHINGTON — After an all-day game of legislative ping pong that stretched into the early morning hours of Tuesday, Democrats and Republicans failed to reach an agreement on how to keep the government funded, forcing the country into its first government shutdown in nearly two decades.
Congress engaged in a game of political hot potato over the past few days as House Republicans have tried to tie the defunding or delay of Obamacare to the government funding bill, and Senate Democrats have insisted they will only accept a clean continuing resolution.
On Monday, Senate rejected the House's attempts to add a one year delay of the individual mandate two separate times.
"They've lost their minds! They keep trying to do the same thing over and over again," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on the Senate floor shortly after the House voted on a continuing resolution Monday night.
With less than an hour until a shutdown, House Republican leaders moved to send the budget debate to a conference committee with the Senate to negotiate an agreement on the spending measure.
But Reid rejected the offer, saying the Senate would only negotiate on the budget once a clean CR was passed.
"We will not go to conference with a gun to our heads," Reid said.
Shortly before midnight, Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell sent a memo to government agencies directing them to "execute plans for an orderly shutdown due to the absence of appropriations."
When the clock struck midnight, Congress had not reached a solution to avert a government shutdown.
Every single government department and agency -- from the United States Postal Service to the Department of Education to the Environmental Protection Agency to NASA -- will feel the immediate effects of the shutdown.
According to government estimates, 800,000 of the more than 2 million federal workers could be furloughed, and the offices that employ them have released contingency plans noting how many employees would be forced to stay home and how many would be "excepted."
The effects will be far-reaching: The Department of Education, for example, would furlough more than 90 percent of its total staff for the first week of a shutdown.
The Centers for Disease Control would not be able to support the seasonal influenza program. Food safety and nutrition activities would also not be supported by the Food and Drug Administration.
The Smithsonian, which employs more than 4,000 people, would have to cut that number down to just 688. The Smithsonian Institute, which includes some of the country's most popular museums, will not be able to keep its doors open to the public.
Workers who will be furloughed will be "hurt greatly," Obama said Monday in a statement at the White House.
"And as a consequence all of us will be hurt greatly, should Congress choose to shut the people's government down," he added.
Obama also warned lawmakers that a shutdown would "throw a wrench into the gears of our economy."
"The idea of putting the American people's hard-earned progress at risk is the height of irresponsibility, and it doesn't have to happen," the president said. "Let me repeat this. It does not have to happen."
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