Tea Party budget demands could force US government shutdown

Party leaders on Capitol Hill are racing to overcome an impasse in budget talks that is threatening a partial shutdown of the United States government. If no solution is found, hundreds of thousands of federal workers will become idle and facilities as varied as zoos, museums and passport offices will close temporarily.

After President Barack Obama told negotiators to "act like grown-ups" and get over their differences, hopes of a solution were still flickering last night. If they fail to set spending levels for the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends on 30 September, the shutdown will begin at midnight on Friday.

The last such shutdown came in 1996 when Bill Clinton was in the White House. The stoppage lasted three weeks and in the end brought public wrath on then Republican House Speaker, Newt Gingrich. Centre-stage this time is Representative John Boehner, who became Speaker after Republicans retook control of the House in last year's midterm elections. Mr Boehner is under pressure from his newly elected Tea Party caucus to win swingeing cuts not just in spending but in the size of government itself.

After hopes that a compromise would be reached involving cuts of $33bn this year, Mr Boehner dismayed Democrats by suggesting during talks at the White House that he wanted to strip out another $7bn. "Every time we agree to meet in the middle they move where the middle is," Harry Reid, the Democrat majority leader in the Senate, complained yesterday. "We stand here with fewer than 72 hours on the clock... It's time to get the job done."

Officials in Washington were already scrambling to prepare for a possible shutdown, which would cause widespread disruption and, if it becomes protracted, could endanger the fragile economic recovery. Non-essential government staff would be asked to stay at home. Government workers expecting to take paid leave would no longer be able to. It would be illegal for federal workers to use government- issued BlackBerry devices. National parks such as Yellowstone and the Statue of Liberty would be closed.

Essential government services, such as defence, air traffic control and the FBI, would not be affected but scores of federally funded programmes would come to a halt. Police trainers in Afghanistan would come home, while passport and visa processing offices would close. There is also concern that there would eventually be an interruption in unemployment benefit payments.

Even if a last-minute deal is reached – and Congress has a history of pulling back from the brink – the fight between the parties over levels of government spending will be far from over. Polls show that most Americans share alarm about a federal deficit that has now reached roughly $1.5 trillion.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?