House Republicans and Senate Democrats could not reach agreement by the midnight deadline on a spending bill to keep the government operating, triggering an immediate shutdown of nonessential services and the furlough of nonessential personnel potentially affecting hundreds of thousands of federal workers.
It will be the first government shutdown since 1996, when President Bill Clinton was in the White House.
The Senate leadership had insisted on accepting only a “clean” continuing resolution, as the stopgap spending bill is known. But House Republicans stood their ground, insisting on using the continuing resolution as a vehicle to accomplish their long-held goal of derailing President Obama’s signature Affordable Care Act.
The final inning of the drama came Monday afternoon, as the Senate rejected yet another version of the House’s spending bill that would have delayed Obamacare for a year and President Obama addressed reporters at the White House, accusing GOP lawmakers of threatening to throw a “wrench” into the economy “just because there’s a law they don’t like.”
The House countered again, voting 228-201 to pass another bill that would avert a shutdown of the federal government but also delay a key part of the Affordable Care Act. The Senate quickly tabled the amendments and sent the bill back to the House.
As the minutes ticked away toward the midnight deadline, no compromise appeared and the White House budget office directed federal agencies to begin shutting down.
The shutdown means not only will government workers be involuntarily laid off but national parks, with daily attendance of some 750,000, will be closed.
As The Associated Press writes, the government shutdown is expected to inconvenience millions:
“Many low-to-moderate-income borrowers and first-time homebuyers seeking government-backed mortgages could face delays. …
“About 800,000 federal workers, many already reeling from the effect of automatic budget cuts, would be ordered to report to work Tuesday for about four hours — but only to carry out shutdown-related chores such as changing office voicemail messages and completing time cards. Once they departed, they would be under orders not to do any government work.
“Some critical services such as patrolling the borders, inspecting meat and controlling air traffic would continue. Social Security benefits would be sent, and the Medicare and Medicaid health care programs for the elderly and poor would continue to pay doctors and hospitals.”
Anticipating the likely shutdown, investors on Monday turned in a disappointing day. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 128.57 points, off 0.8 percent, to close at 15,129.67. The Standard & Poor’s 500 dropped 10.20 points, or 0.6 percent, to 1,681.55.