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US govt shuts down for 1st time in 17 years as budget talks fail

Published time: October 01, 2013 04:17
Edited time: October 03, 2013 10:44

The US Congress building (AFP Photo / Mladlen Antonov)

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The US federal government is partially shutting down after the Congress failed to fund its work amid a Republican drive to defund the Obamacare healthcare program. President Obama addressed to US troops to boost their confidence amid the crisis.

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The Congress left the government without funding as competing spending measures bounced back and forth between the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and Democratic-led Senate late into Monday night.

The partial shutdown will leave some essential government functions, including national security and public safety, intact. It’s not clear how long the situation will continue, with lawmakers expected to take a further vote in a matter of hours.

If the shutdown persists, it will affect an estimated 800,000 of public workers, who will be forced into unpaid leave as the government would be unable to fund their employment. National parks and most federal offices are closed, as is almost all of NASA, except for Mission Control in Houston.

The shutdown also affects the Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo, going as far as shutting off the zoo’s popular ‘panda cam’. The website of the US Department of Agriculture went blank on Tuesday, leaving only a warning that it’s not available due to the lapse in federal government funding.

screenshot from www.usda.gov

The crisis would initially cost the US economy at least $300 million a day in lost economic output, says Bloomberg citing IHS Inc., a Massachusetts-based economic forecast company.

President Barack Obama assumed his role as commander-in-chief to address US troops around the world. He said the Congress had failed American soldiers in causing the government shutdown. He pledged that the White House will do everything possible to keep those troops currently on active duty to receive all they need in order to perform that duty.

image by @GOPLeader

The budgetary breakdown raised fresh concerns about whether lawmakers can meet a crucial mid-October deadline to raise the government’s $16.7 trillion debt ceiling.

Gerald Celente, publisher of the Trends journal, says the current crisis is “more theatrics than anything else,” as was the case with previous cases of US political gridlocks.

“Go back to 2011. What we kept hearing about was ‘going over the fiscal cliff!’ They talked about it so much that Standard & Poor’s downgraded the US credit worthiness. And then we had sequestering. And next month we are going to have the debt ceiling,” he told RT. “It’s the Washington drama queens doing what they always do – behave in a manner that is unbecoming of professionals and adults.”

Political commentator Brian Fox also dismissed the shutdown, telling RT that it would have no long-term consequences on the real big issues.

“The government has been shut down 17 times, I believe, since 1977. We can look back now and see the same sort of political opportunism and grandstanding every time with different variations,” he said.

The partial shutdown on Tuesday is the first for the US government in 17 years. It comes after Congress missed the Monday midnight deadline for passing a federal budget.

As a condition for keeping the government funded, Republicans were demanding a one-year delay in making millions of people buy health insurance under the Obama administration’s 2010 healthcare law. The attack on White House’s key political measure was spearheaded by the Republican conservatives from the Tea Party, culminating a three-year growth of polarization in America.

The Senate twice rejected the proposed provisions, while Obama said he would veto the House-backed legislation.

The Congress deadlock has driven the legislature’s approval rating down to a record low 10 percent, according to a new CNN/ORC International Poll. President Obama’s approval is down to 44 percent.

According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll on who is responsible for the crisis, most Americans, 44 percent, believe it’s everyone involved. Another 25 percent blame Republicans, while 14 percent blame Obama and 5 percent blame Democrats in Congress.

As the shutdown loomed Monday, visitors to popular parks made their frustration with elected officials clear.

"There is no good thing going to come out of it," Chris Fahl, a tourist, told AP as he was touring the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Park in Kentucky. "Taxpayers are just going to be more overburdened."

"They should be willing to compromise, both sides, and it discourages me that they don't seem to be able to do that," said Emily Enfinger, a visitor to the Statue of Liberty. "They're not doing their job as far as I'm concerned."

The crisis appears to be strangely captivating for some foreigners. 

"We can't imagine not having a national health system," said Marlena Knight, an Australian native visiting Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia. "I just can't believe that this country can shut down over something like a national health system. Totally bizarre, as an Australian, but fascinating."

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