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.

Healthcare.gov, 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
News
people
News
A survey carried out by Sainsbury's Finance found 20% of new university students have never washed their own clothes, while 14% cannot even boil an egg
science...and the results are not as pointless as that sounds
News
politicsIs David Cameron trying to prove he's down with the kids?
News
Businessman at desk circa 1950s
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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

Recruitment Genius: Linux Systems Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of UK Magento hosting so...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Development Manager - North Kent - OTE £19K

£16000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A unique opportunity has arisen...

Tradewind Recruitment: Maths Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Tradewind are working with this secondary s...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: We are working with a school that needs a t...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea