US Capitol building in Washington DC 390.
(photo credit: Kevin Lamarque / Reuters)
WASHINGTON – Once greeted daily by proud Americans and curious foreigners,
Lincoln sat alone in his monument on the National Mall on Tuesday after the US
Congress was unable to pass a budget in time to keep the federal government open
The impasse immediately shut down the country’s National
Parks Service, the Department of Veterans Affairs and NASA, and sent home
hundreds of thousands of government workers without the guarantee of
A divided Republican caucus in the House of Representatives has
stalled any vote on a budget that would keep the government open so long as that
means a continuation of funding for the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” the
2009 healthcare reform law and US President Barack Obama’s signature
House Majority Leader John Boehner told his caucus that he
refuses to be caught “holding the hot potato” on the wildly unpopular shutdown,
as early polling indicates that Americans blame Republicans in Congress for the
crisis, and a CNN poll found America’s approval of its lawmakers at a record-low
10 percent. To shift the blame, Boehner has been lobbing watered-down bills
mitigating the shutdown’s damage – funding the parts of the government most
visibly affected, and eliminating waivers on members of Congress who are still
getting paid through the crisis – over to the Democrat- controlled
But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said that Tuesday is a
“good day for anarchists,” sniping at Tea Party Republicans for intentionally
sabotaging the US government through a “hostage” crisis.
Obama said the
government closure risked an “economic shutdown.” The federal government is
America’s largest single employer.
“They’ve shut down the government over
an ideological crusade to deny affordable healthcare to millions of Americans,”
“I urge House Republicans to reopen the government, restart
the services Americans depend on, and allow the public servants who have been
sent home to return to work,” Obama said. “This is only going to happen when
Republicans realize they don’t get to hold the entire economy hostage over
Many Republicans in Congress fighting to delay or
defund Obamacare were elected to do just that, winning off campaign messages to
do whatever was necessary to disrupt the law, which started in earnest on
Tuesday with citizen registrations.
Opposition to the law centralizes
around a political fear over rapid government expansion and ideological
opposition to government encroachment into personal freedoms, such as the
freedom not to have health insurance.
Democrats say that 30 million
people previously without coverage will now be able to acquire vital care, and
that Republicans are protecting insurance companies that take advantage of the
Defunding Obamacare will take more than shutting down the
government: The act declares healthcare a vital service, like Medicaid and
social security, putting conservative Republicans in the awkward position of
having defunded much of the government, save for entitlements.
Hill staffers found themselves out of work on an unusually warm October Tuesday,
free to roam the streets, but not the parks.
The last government shutdown
occurred 17 years ago during the Clinton presidency.
It lasted 21 days
and led to the resignation of the House speaker at the time, Newt Gingrich.