US shutdown: President Obama vows not to give in to 'ideological crusade' as budget impasse forces 800,000 people off work

Republicans and Democrats have failed to agree the budget for federal agencies, forcing non-essential workers on unpaid leave

New York, Los Angeles

The US awoke to find its federal government in a partial shutdown, putting an estimated 800,000 people out of work until the squabble over spending in Congress can be resolved. Washington’s partisan gridlock triggered the shutdown early in the morning, with Republicans and Democrats failing to agree a deal to keep federal agencies funded past a midnight deadline.

With no budget, the US government has no choice but to send its non-essential workers on unpaid leave, affecting agencies as varied as the Justice Department, the National Parks Service and the Pentagon in the first shutdown for 17 years.

President Barack Obama was scathing in his assessment of the situation, blaming Republicans for an “ideological crusade” aimed at his healthcare programme and urging lawmakers to keep government operations running without conditions. “As long as I am President, I will not give in to reckless demands by some in the Republican Party to deny affordable health insurance to millions of hard-working Americans,” he said.

Across the country, from the Statue of Liberty to the Grand Canyon, national parks closed to visitors. Nasa’s mission control in Houston is still supporting US astronauts aboard the International Space Station, but the remainder of the agency’s staff were sent home. Air traffic controllers, prison guards and border patrol agents continued to work, but even their pay may dry up if the shutdown drags on.

According to the White House, a one-week shutdown would cost the US economy about $10bn (£6.2bn). Earlier Mr Obama warned it would throw “a wrench into the gears of our economy at a time when those gears have gained some traction”.

“Hundreds of thousands of these dedicated public servants who stay on the job will do so without pay,” the President said. “And several hundred thousand more will be immediately and indefinitely furloughed without pay. What, of course, will not be furloughed are the bills that they have to pay – their mortgages, their tuition payments, their car notes.”

Civilian workers in the military may be sent home, but, as it became clear the shutdown would go ahead, Mr Obama signed a law protecting active-duty servicemen from its effects.

Congress had until midnight on Monday to agree on a stopgap budget to keep the money flowing to government departments into the new fiscal year, which began today. But Republicans in the House of Representatives refused to countenance any measure that left the President’s signature healthcare reforms – known collectively as Obamacare – untouched.

Speaker of the House John Boehner has led the Republican side of the deadlock that has resulted in the shutdown (EPA) Speaker of the House John Boehner has led the Republican side of the deadlock that has resulted in the shutdown (EPA)  

But, under pressure from right-wing Republicans, the party’s leader in the House, Speaker John Boehner, refused to put forward a straightforward budget measure. Late on Monday, the House leadership suggested negotiating with the Senate, via a legislative process known as conference, instead of simply sending bills back and forth. 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 our head.”

As midnight loomed, the budget office put a memo out to federal agencies, directing them to “execute plans for an orderly shutdown due to the absence of appropriations”.

Polls show that the US public is likely to blame Republicans for the shutdown, and that voters disapprove of GOP tactics in trying to removes funds from Obamacare, which was passed four years ago and has since been ratified by the Supreme Court.

The focus now will be on the length of the shutdown, which senior Republicans reportedly expect to last at least a week. The longer the budget impasse in Washington, the greater the risk to economic growth.

In the event of a shutdown lasting more than a few days, lawmakers will also be under pressure to agree a deal that resolves not just the budget issue, but also the thorny question of the US debt ceiling. The government runs out of room on its Congressionally-mandated debt limit around 17 October.

If Congress fails to raise the limit on time, the US would face defaulting on its debts – an outcome that would be likely to throw world markets into a tailspin.

High demand for online Obamacare

The online healthcare market established under President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act opened for business this morning, in spite of a government shutdown brought on by the battle over the President’s signature policy, known as Obamacare., the federal portal through which people in most states can search for affordable health coverage, struggled to cope with the high volume of traffic, with many people experiencing delays.

The New York state healthcare exchange opened at 8am and had about two million visits in its first hour-and-a-half online.

Tim Walker

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower