Political deadlock over 'Obamacare' forces shutdown in US
Washington: The US government on Tuesday shutdown for the first time in nearly 18 years due to a deadlock between the Republicans and Democrats over Obamacare, a crisis that has forced 800,000 federal workers off the job and could cost the world's largest economy about USD 1 billion a week.
The Republicans and Democrats failed to strike a deal on spending and budget due to differences over 'Obamacare', the signature healthcare programme of President Barack Obama.
About 800,000 federal workers in the US were told to stay at home while national parks, museums, government buildings and services shutdown as a result of the deadlock in the Congress.
With neither side blinking, despite last minute hectic efforts from both sides, the White House immediately ordered the federal government agencies to begin shutting down, furloughing thousands of workers and curtailing some services for the first time since 1995-96.
"Congress has not fulfilled its responsibility. It has failed to pass a budget and, as a result, much of our government must now shut down until Congress funds it again," Obama said in a video message to the armed services shortly after the shutdown came into effect.
"The threats to our national security have not changed, and we need you to be ready for any contingency. Ongoing military operations like our efforts in Afghanistan will continue. If you're serving in harm's way, we're going to make sure you have what you need to succeed in your missions," he said.
"Congress has passed, and I am signing into law, legislation to make sure you get your paychecks on time. And we'll continue working to address any impact this shutdown has on you and your families," Obama said.
Later on, the Democratic party-led Senate voted to reject the latest House Republican effort to negotiate on the budget.
The party-line vote was 54-46. The Senate turned down the House request to name negotiators to a conference to resolve the deadlock.
Majority Leader Harry Reid said he would not negotiate as long as Republicans were holding up the spending bill to keep the government operating.
Agencies should now execute plans for an orderly shutdown due to the absence of appropriations, the Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell said in her guidance to the agencies directing them to execute their plans for an orderly shutdown of the Federal government.
"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," the guidance said.
Shutdown means that national parks will close, most routine food inspections will be suspended, paperwork will slow at government offices and many federal employees will be furloughed. Only emergency and essential items would be able to operate, as a result of which lakhs of government employees would not receive their salary for the shutdown duration.
Earlier, Obama said, "A shutdown will have a very real economic impact on real people, right away. Past shutdowns have disrupted the economy significantly. This one would, too. It would throw a wrench into the gears of our economy at a time when those gears have gained some traction."
In the hours leading up to the October 1 deadline, House Republican leaders won approval, in a vote of 228 to 201, of a new plan to tie further government spending to a one-year delay in a requirement that individuals buy health insurance.
The Congress has a major duty in the Constitution -- pass spending bills that fund the government. If it does not, most functions of government -- from funding agencies to paying out small business loans -- grinds to a halt.
Key services, like Social Security, air traffic control and military pay continue to be funded.
The health care law is not directly tied to funding the government, but it is being used as a bargaining chip, CNN reported.