No shutdown end; Dems, GOP trade blame

President Barack Obama stands with people who support the Affordable Care Act, his signature health care law, as he speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

President Barack Obama stands with people who support the Affordable Care Act, his signature health care law, as he speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

By David Espo and Donna Cassata

Associated Press

WASHINGTON — First slowed, then stalled by political gridlock, the vast machinery of government clanged into partial shutdown mode on Tuesday and President Barack Obama warned the longer it goes “the more families will be hurt.” Republicans said it was his fault, not theirs.

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. Dick 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 non-stop “ideological crusade” to wipe out his signature health care law.

House Speaker John 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, part of the impact of a partial shutdown that sent ripples of disruption outward — from museums and memorials in Washington to Yellowstone and other national parks and to tax auditors and federal offices serving Americans coast to coast.

Officials said roughly 800,000 federal employees would be affected by the shutdown after a half-day on the job Tuesday to fill out time cards, put new messages on their voice mail and similar chores.

Among those workers were some at the National Institute of Health’s famed hospital of last resort, where officials said no new patients would be admitted for the duration of the shutdown. Dr. Francis Collins, agency director, estimated that each week the shutdown lasts will force the facility to turn away about 200 patients, 30 of them children, who want to enroll in studies of experimental treatments. Patients already at the hospital are permitted to stay.

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 in Congress announced their opposition and the White House threatened to veto the measures, saying Republicans shouldn’t be permitted to choose which agencies should open and which remain shut. That drew a jab from Michael Steel, a spokesman for Boehner, who said 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.”

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

Health law takes effect

Ironically, a major expansion of the health care law — the very event Republicans had hoped to prevent — was unaffected as consumers flocked for the first time Tuesday to websites to shop for coverage sold by private companies.

The talk of joining the current fight — the Republicans are trying to sidetrack the health care law by holding up funding for the fiscal year that began at midnight Monday — 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 hard-working 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.

Boehner has declined to say whether he would permit a vote on a stand-alone spending bill to reopen the government, stripped of health care provisions, though Democrats and Obama continued to call on him to do so. “He’s afraid it will pass,” said Durbin.

Sen. Cruz, R-Texas, the most prominent advocate of the “Defund Obamacare” movement, said the Senate should follow the House’s lead and quickly reopen programs for veterans and the parks. Asked why it was appropriate to do so without demanding changes in the health care law, he offered no answer.

“None of us want to be in a shutdown. And we’re here to say to the Senate Democrats, ‘Come and talk to us,”’ said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., as GOP lawmakers called for negotiations with the Senate on a compromise.

It was an offer that Senate Democrats chose to refuse, saying there was nothing to negotiate until Republicans agreed to reopen the federal establishment.

“The government is closed because of the irrationality of what’s going on on the other side of the Capitol,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Federal closings

In addition to “closed” signs and barricades springing up at the Lincoln Memorial and other tourist attractions, NASA and the Environmental Protection Agency were virtually shuttered, and Obama said veterans centers would be shut down.

Government workers classified as essential, such as air traffic controllers, Border Patrol agents and most food inspectors, remained on the job.

So, too, members of the military, whose pay was exempted from the shutdown in separate legislation Obama signed late Monday. Employees whose work is financed through fees, including those who issue passports and visas, also continued to work. The self-funded Postal Service remained in operation, and officials said the government will continue to pay Social Security benefits and Medicare and Medicaid fees to doctors on time.

At the White House, aides discussed whether Obama should change plans for a trip to Asia scheduled to begin Saturday.

In Congress, some aides were furloughed and others said they were working without pay. Democratic Sen. Tom Carper sent an email to his Delaware constituents telling them not to expect responses to their emails and phone calls.

Lawmakers and the president were still getting paid, however, at a rate totaling more than $250,000 per day for all of them.

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Associated Press writers Lauran Neergaard, Alan Fram, Josh Lederman, Nedra Pickler, Seth Borenstein and Andrew Taylor contributed to this report.

  • American

    Harry, the American people want Obamacare gone along with you, Barry and Nancy

    • TWBDB

      Some American people want Obama, Obamacare, and Nancy Pelosi gone. Other Americans feel all could be managed better. Still others support all three whole-heartedly. Those are the facts. You don’t get to determine who is or is not an American

  • charlie

    @American, the people have voted twice proving you wrong.

    • Raider

      Wish I could give you five “likes” because your statement says it all. Universal healthcare was on the ballot in 2008 and Obama won. Retaining or repealing healthcare was on the ballot in 2012, Obama won. The guy who was for implementing universal healthcare in 2008 and continuing universal healthcare in 2012, won. The people have spoken. The tealiban needs to accept that fact, shut-up and sit down.

      • guest

        Or maybe they could offer up something better and actually debate the merits – you know like our system should operate.

    • Pragmatic

      The “people” did not vote for universal healthcare. The “people” voted (and according to reports mutliple times and for dead relatives) for a minority president with no domestic or foriegn policy ideas. Lets see:
      Job Creation = Fail
      Timely Economic Recovery = Fail
      Foriegn Policy = “Egypt” Fail
      Protecting Ambassadors = Fail
      Weaken the Military = Success
      Over-regulation of Business = Success
      Universal Healthcare = success (always wanted a policy for $9/month and a $3k deductible)
      Get Played by Putin = Success
      Quit smoking = success
      Play plenty of Golf = success
      Take the wife and kids to Africa on Vacation = success
      Yep, exactly what the people wanted in a world leader. Like Samuel L. Jackson said, “be f***ing presidential and quit trying to relate”.

      • 1941641

        So it’s Mr. “Pragmatic.” LOL! or is it Pseudo-Pragmatic?

  • Thile

    So this is what groups like Citizens United have wrought. A few dozen petulant children — and the idiots who root for their success and the failure of the adults — have been allowed to take over the school.

    Weepy Orange Drunk and his band of teahadists finally got what they’ve longed for since election night 2008. Good job, idiots.

  • guest

    A perfect example of the authoritive Republican mindset – if they don’t get their way they will bring the system down. The lack of respect for our system of government is mind boggling.

  • guest

    I wonder why Speaker Boehner did not put the Senate version of the CR up for a vote in the House. Could it be that there were enough Republicans that would vote with Democrats to pass it?

    Do we need any more examples of how the Tea Party Republicans hate democracy?

  • Penny Oakley

    Seriously?! We have grown men & women acting like children because they can’t get their way. Here’s a solution. Let’s call a government shutdown exactly what it is. We can withhold pay starting at the top (President Obama, Vice President Biden, John Boehner and ALL of Congress). I bet then we’ll get a super quick solution.

    • TWBDB

      California did this very thing when their leaders couldn’t agree. 13 hours later – a compromise was formed

  • Pragmatic

    Oh, so the democraps can give big business and the unions a one year delay but not individuals? That makes sense. Oh, and by the way, why do none of the democrap supporters of YoMamacare not want to join the exchanges themselves? Do you mean that none of the supporters want to drink the Jim Jones Koolaid from the White House? I remember a constitution that guarantees all of us the same “opportunities” not he same “outcomes”.

  • charlie

    Please tell one thing that the repubs accomplished except to shut down the government. Obama care sigh-up started today.

  • Kevin

    The Republicans did this when Bill Clinton was president. They have a way of doing this kind of crap when they hate the president. When Bush was in office and he spent lots of money on war and economic stimulus, the republicans went along with it. This is merely being done because they hate the president, and it’s going to bite them in the rear, just like it did during the Clinton years.

  • guest

    If you cannot tell by now we are seeing the end of the G.O.P. rope. It is clear that they are losing the American middle class and all that are left are the brainwashed followers. They lost the national election and they lost in the Supreme Court so they bypass our system of government and try “hostage” taking. This is what happens when you run the moderates out of your party, speak in the abstract and keep you base fired up in a mouth foaming frenzy.

    I feel it is going to get much worse since the G.O.P. has nothing to left lose and if they cannot have it their way they are going to bring the whole thing down.

  • 1941641

    Hello yall.