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October 1, 2013

With Congress deadlocked, government begins shutting down

WASHINGTON — The U.S. government started shutting down early Tuesday after a bitter fight over the new health care law deadlocked the Congress and stymied every attempt to keep money flowing after the federal fiscal year ended at midnight.

It was the first such collapse of the government in nearly two decades and there was no immediate way to know how long it would last or how it would end.

The partial closure will delay Social Security payments, passport and visa applications, close national parks and museums and furlough hundreds of thousands of federal employees. Essential services will still be provided; the military remains on duty.

President Barack Obama declared the government had officially run out of money when the fiscal year expired at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.

“Congress has not fulfilled its responsibility,” Obama said in a video message sent to the U.S. military around the globe. “It has failed to pass a budget and, as a result, much of our government must now shut down until Congress funds it again.”

The White House Office of Management and Budget sent an alert to all executive branch government offices, telling them to start implementing shutdown plans: “Agencies should now execute plans for an orderly shutdown due to the absence of appropriations.”

The shutdown came after the Senate and the House of Representatives engaged in a high-stakes political showdown well into the night — sending bills back and forth across the Capitol — but never coming close to a deal. It was driven by House efforts to try to force a weakening of the new Affordable Care Act, all of which the Democrats rejected.

“We believe we should fund the government” and that there should be changes in the new health care law, a drawn-looking House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters early Tuesday. He declined to answer questions about the shutdown.

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