By Jason Spencer
The federal government began to shut down for the first time in nearly 20 years early Tuesday after Congress failed to reach a compromise on a short-term spending plan.
The stalemate was arguably cemented by a doomed-to-fail measure the House passed late Monday to, again, delay the full implementation of President Barack Obama's 3-year-old signature health care law. Today, Oct. 1, citizens can begin to shop health care marketplaces created under the Affordable Care Act despite the ideological battle on the Hill.
The House voted 228 to 201 on the amendment, which was predictably dead on arrival in the Senate. Nine Democrats joined 219 Republicans in supporting the action, and 12 Republicans sided with the remaining 189 Democrats to oppose it, according to a Washington Post breakdown of the vote.
Southern conservatives like South Carolina's Trey Gowdy and North Carolina's Walter Jones Jr. were among those who voted in the majority. Well-known Republicans like Michele Bachmann and Steve King were among those who opposed it.
In the end, the 27 members of the lower House got their way: Sylvia Burwell, the director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, issued guidance just minutes before midnight that "agencies should now execute plans for an orderly shutdown due to the absence of appropriations. We urge Congress to act quickly to pass a Continuing Resolution to provide a short-term bridge that ensures sufficient time to pass a budget for the remainder of the fiscal year, and to restore the operation of critical public services and programs that will be impacted by a lapse in appropriations."
Following a few hours of housekeeping Tuesday morning, 800,000 federal workers will be furloughed. Monuments, museums and national parks will close, and "tens of thousands" of air traffic controllers, prison guards and U.S. Border Patrol agents will be asked to work without pay, according to the Washington Post.
A congressional hearing on the recent Washington Navy Yard shootings will be postponed because of the action, too, according to the Post.
Republicans and Democrats issued late-night and early-morning statements on the matter, though the political theatrics had long gone stale. Citizens on Facebook compared the impasse to ping pong, and the satirical publication the Onion painted a picture of leaders of both parties dancing around in a good ole fashioned hoedown while America waited.
Shortly before 12:30 a.m. Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Jim Moran's office released news that a bill Moran introduced, and had the support of representatives across the greater Washington, Maryland and Northern Virginia area, would allow for federal employees to receive retroactive pay during the anticipated furloughs.
“Nearly a million federal workers could lose their pay because Congress failed to do its job and keep the government up and running,” Moran said in a statement. “Leaving the question of retroactive pay for furloughed employees, already shouldering much of the burden of sequestration, up to this highly divisive Congress is deeply concerning. Today's bipartisan proposal shields family pocketbooks from partisan politics and reaffirms our commitment to our federal employees.”
Virginia Rep. Frank Wolf, the lead Republican on the bill, said, “Employees at the FBI, DEA and U.S. Marshals Service shouldn’t be punished because the Congress couldn’t get its job done. They should be properly compensated for the hard work they do to make our nation a safer and better place. Let’s also not forget that several federal workers paid the ultimate price just last week in the Navy Yard tragedy.”
The federal government shut down twice in the 1990s, costing American taxpayers about $2 billion when adjusted for inflation, according to Moran's office.
“In the mid-1990’s, the Republican-led Congress provided furloughed Federal employees with retroactive pay in recognition that our civil servants do not deserve to be victims of congressional dysfunction,” Virginia Rep. Gerry Connolly said in a statement. “Our bipartisan bill will ensure that this Congress, just like the Republican-led Congresses before, honors its commitment to the dedicated men and women of our civil service who serve our constituents.”
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