Partisan gridlock in Washington has triggered a partial shutdown of the US government, with Republicans and Democrats failing to agree a deal to keep federal agencies funded past a midnight deadline.
With no budget, the US government will have no choice but to send hundreds of thousands of federal workers on unpaid leave, affecting agencies as varied as the Justice Department, Nasa, the National Parks Service and the Pentagon in the first shutdown in nearly two decades.
Earlier, as Republicans in the House of Representatives refused to budge on their demands that any funding measure include provisions to delay or water-down the President&’s signature healthcare reforms, Barack Obama warned that a shutdown would throw “a wrench into the gears of our economy at a time when those gears have gained some traction.”
According to the White House, a shutdown lasting one week would cost the US economy something in the region of $10bn.
Congress had until midnight last night to agree on a stopgap budget to keep the money flowing to government departments into the new fiscal year beginning today. But Republicans in the House of Representatives refused to countenance any measure that left the President&’s healthcare reforms ~ known collectively as Obamacare ~ untouched. The Senate, which is controlled by President Obama&’s Democrats, was equally adamant, stripping out any Obamacare-related provisions in funding bills approved by the House and demanding that the Republican-controlled chamber approve a “clean” bill that deals with the budget issue.
But, under pressure from a cabal of right-wing Republicans, the party&’s leader in the House, John Boehner, refused to put forward a straightforward budget measure. Late last night, the House leadership mooted the idea of commencing negotiations, via a legislative process known as conference, with the Senate instead of simply sending bills back and forth between the two chambers with no prospect of a resolution. But the idea was rejected by the Democratic leader in the Senate, Harry Reid, who said: “We’re not going to go to conference with a gun to a head.”
The result: a partial shutdown of the government that the President warned earlier would “have a very real economic impact on real people, right away.”