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National News

October 1, 2013

Government shutdown hits nation

Federal offices, services start closing today

WASHINGTON — For the first time in nearly two decades, the federal government has staggered into a partial shutdown.

It came at midnight, after congressional Republicans stubbornly demanded changes in the nation’s health care law as the price for essential federal funding and President Obama and Democrats adamantly refused.

With Congress gridlocked, Obama said a “shutdown will have a very real economic impact on real people, right away,” with hundreds of thousands of federal workers furloughed and veterans’ centers, national parks, most of the space agency and other government operations shuttered.

He laid the blame at the feet of House Republicans, whom he accused of seeking to tie government funding to ideological demands, “all to save face after making some impossible promises to the extreme right wing of their party.”

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, responded a short while later on the House floor.

“The American people don’t want a shutdown and neither do I,” he said. Yet, he added, the new health care law “is having a devastating impact. ... Something has to be done.”

The stock market dropped on fears that political deadlock between the White House and a tea party-heavy Republican Party would prevail, though analysts suggested significant damage to the national economy was unlikely unless a shutdown lasted more than a few days.

A few minutes before midnight, Budget Director Sylvia Burwell issued a directive to federal agencies to “execute plans for an orderly shutdown.” While an estimated 800,000 federal workers faced furloughs, some critical parts of the government — from the military to air traffic controllers — would remain open.

Any interruption in federal funding would send divided government into territory unexplored in nearly two decades. Then, Republicans suffered grievous political damage and President Bill Clinton benefitted from twin shutdowns. Now, some Republicans said they feared a similar outcome.

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