Congress plunges nation into government shutdown

Published: Tuesday, October 1, 2013 at 11:54 AM.

WASHINGTON — Congress plunged the nation into a partial government shutdown Tuesday as a long-running dispute over President Barack Obama's health care law stalled a temporary funding bill, forcing about 800,000 federal workers off the job and suspending most non-essential federal programs and services.

With the Republican-controlled House and Democratic-controlled Senate at a stalemate, it was unclear how long the government would remain shuttered. The No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, Dick Durbin of Illinois, called the failure to pass a budget "conduct unbefitting a responsible Congress" and said he hoped it could be resolved by the end of the day Tuesday.

"Most people in the body politic are taking a look at this and saying, 'A pox on both of your houses. It should never have reached this point,'" Durbin said Tuesday morning on CNN. "And there's wisdom to that."

The shutdown, the first since the winter of 1995-96, closed national parks, museums along the Washington Mall and the U.S. Capitol visitors center. The Smithsonian website displayed a red banner noting that "all Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo are closed."

Agencies like NASA and the Environmental Protection Agency will be all but shuttered. People classified as essential government employees — such as air traffic controllers, Border Patrol agents and most food inspectors — will continue to work.

The health care law itself was unaffected as enrollment opened Tuesday for millions of people shopping for medical insurance.
The White House was operating with a skeletal staff, including household workers taking care of the first family's residence and presidential aides working in the West Wing. A groundskeeper working outside Tuesday morning at daybreak said he was doing the job normally handled by four workers.

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.



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