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No progress on breaking the impasse

Leaders traded blame amid suggestions that the shutdown would merge into a government default.

PHILADELPHIA: Union members who work at Independence National Historical Park protest the federal government shutdown and their subsequent furlough in front of Independence Hall.
PHILADELPHIA: Union members who work at Independence National Historical Park protest the federal government shutdown and their subsequent furlough in front of Independence Hall.Read moreALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer

WASHINGTON - First slowed, then stalled by political gridlock, the vast machinery of government clanged into partial shutdown mode on Tuesday and President Obama warned that the longer it goes "the more families will be hurt."

Republicans said it was his fault, not theirs, and embarked on a strategy - opposed by Democrats - of voting on bills to reopen individual agencies or programs.

Ominously, there were suggestions from leaders in both parties that the shutdown, heading for its second day, could last for weeks and grow to encompass a possible default by the Treasury if Congress fails to raise the nation's debt ceiling. The two issues are "now all together," said Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D., Ill.).

Speaking at the White House, the president accused Republicans of causing the first partial closure in 17 years as part of a nonstop "ideological crusade" to wipe out his signature health-care law.

House Speaker John A. Boehner (R., Ohio) gave as good as he got. "The president isn't telling the whole story," he said in an opinion article posted on the USA Today website. "The fact is that Washington Democrats have slammed the door on reopening the government by refusing to engage in bipartisan talks."

Both houses of Congress met in a Capitol closed to regular public tours.

Late Tuesday, House Republicans sought swift passage of legislation aimed at reopening small slices of the federal establishment. The bills covered the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Park Service, and a portion of the Washington, D.C., government funded with local tax revenue.

Democrats generally opposed all three, saying Republicans shouldn't be permitted to choose which agencies remain open and which stay shut. As a result, all fell well short of the two-thirds majority needed for passage.

The White House also issued veto threats against the bills, drawing a jab from Michael Steel, a spokesman for Boehner. Obama "can't continue to complain about the impact of the government shutdown on veterans, visitors at National Parks, and D.C. while vetoing bills to help them," he said.

Several House Democrats used the occasion to seek a vote on a stand-alone spending bill, a measure that Rep. Elizabeth Esty of Connecticut said would "end the tea party shutdown." The requests were ruled out of order.

Republican aides said all three bills that were sidetracked could be brought up again on Wednesday under rules requiring a mere majority to pass. They said the House might also vote on a measure to reopen the hospital at the National Institutes of Health, which was no longer admitting new patients.

The talk of joining the current fight - the Republicans are trying to sidetrack the health law by holding up funding for the new fiscal year - to a dispute involving the national debt limit suggested the shutdown could go on for some time.

The administration says the ceiling must be raised by mid-month, and Republicans have long vowed to seek cuts in spending at the same time, a condition Obama has rejected.

In Washington, some Republicans conceded privately they might bear the brunt of any public anger over the shutdown - and seemed resigned to an eventual surrender in their latest bruising struggle with Obama.

Democrats have "all the leverage and we've got none," said Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia.

Rep. Devin Nunes (R., Calif.) said sardonically his party was following a "Ted Cruz-lemmings strategy" - a reference to the senator who is a prime proponent of action against the health care overhaul - and Rep. Scott Rigell of Virginia said it was time to pass legislation reopening the government without any health-care impediments. "The shutdown is hurting my district - including the military and the hardworking men and women who have been furloughed due to the defense sequester," he said.

But that was far from the majority view among House Republicans, where tea party-aligned lawmakers prevailed more than a week ago on a reluctant leadership to link federal funding legislation to "Obamacare." In fact, some conservatives fretted the GOP had already given in too much.

Gone is the Republican demand for a full defunding of the health-care law as the price for essential federal funding. Gone, too, are the demands for a one-year delay in the law, a permanent repeal of a medical device tax and a provision making it harder for women to obtain contraceptive coverage.

In place of those items, Republicans now seek a one-year-delay in the requirement for individuals to purchase insurance, and they want a separate provision that would dramatically raise the cost of health care for the president, vice president, members of Congress and thousands of aides.

D.C. Showdown: The Last 3 Days


Just after midnight, the House uses a rare and lengthy weekend session to shift its demands for restricting President Obama's health law, informally known as Obamacare.

By a near party-line 231-192 vote, the House votes to delay implementation of Obamacare by a year. It also votes 248-174 to repeal a tax on many medical devices that helps pay for the health-care overhaul. The votes send the revamped shutdown bill back to the Senate.


2:20 p.m.: By 54-46, the Senate removes the House provisions postponing Obamacare and erasing the medical device tax. The shutdown bill moves back to the House.

8:41 p.m.: The House approves a new shutdown bill, 228-201, with different demands on Obamacare. It would delay for a year the requirement that individuals purchase health insurance, and require members of Congress and their staff to pay the full cost of health insurance. The measure bounces to the Senate.

9:37 p.m.: The Senate votes, 54-46, to strip the House provisions on individual health insurance and federal health coverage subsidies for lawmakers and staff. The bill returns to the House.

Just before midnight: White House Budget Office director Sylvia Mathews Burwell sends a memo to agency heads stating that a shutdown seems unavoidable and telling them to implement plans for winding down.


12:01 a.m.: The government's new fiscal year begins. With no spending legislation enacted, a partial federal shutdown begins to take effect.

1:11 a.m.: The House votes, 228-199, to stand by its language delaying required individual health coverage and blocking federal subsidies for health insurance for lawmakers and staff, and to request formal negotiations with the Senate.

10 a.m.: The Senate votes, 54-46, to reject a House effort for formal bargaining. - APEndText

Guess Who Still Gets Paid?

There's at least one constant in a government shutdown: The 532 members of Congress continue to be paid - at a cost of $10,583.85 per hour to taxpayers.

Lawmakers get their pay even as hundreds of congressional staffers are sent home, packs of tourists are turned away at the Capitol, and constituent services in many offices grind to a halt.

House members and senators can't withhold their own pay even if they want to. Under the Constitution's 27th Amendment, lawmakers can only change the pay of those in a future Congress. Senators and House members are paid $174,000 a year; a handful of leaders make up to $20,000 more.

Lawmakers aren't oblivious to how it looks. Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and others are pledging to donate their salaries to charity during the shutdown.

While lawmakers' paychecks will continue, the same isn't true for their aides and some support staff. Thousands of workers on Capitol Hill were sent home Tuesday. Those who weren't will still see their paychecks delayed. - AP