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US Government Shuts Down After Fiscal Disagreement

SMH at this mess.

According to NY Times:

A flurry of last-minute moves by the House, Senate and White House late Monday failed to break a bitter budget standoff over President Obama’s health care law, setting in motion the first government shutdown in nearly two decades. The impasse meant that 800,000 federal workers were to be furloughed and more than a million others would be asked to work without pay. The Office of Management and Budget issued orders shortly before the midnight deadline that “agencies should now execute plans for an orderly shutdown due to the absence of appropriations” because Congress had failed to act to keep the federal government financed.

After a series of rapid-fire back and forth legislative maneuvers, the House and Senate ended the day with no resolution, and the Senate halted business until later Tuesday while the House took steps to open talks. But Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, dismissed as game-playing the House proposal to begin conference committee negotiations. “We will not go to conference with a gun to our heads,” he said, demanding that the House accept the Senate’s six-week stopgap spending bill, which has no policy prescriptions, before negotiations begin.

The Obama administration and the Republican-controlled House had come close to failing to finance the government in the past but had always reached a last-minute agreement to head off a disruption in government services. In the hours leading up to the deadline, House Republican leaders won approval, in a vote of 228 to 201, of a new plan to tie further government spending to a one-year delay in a requirement that individuals buy health insurance. The House proposal would deny federal subsidies to members of Congress, Capitol Hill staff, executive branch political appointees, White House staff, and the president and vice president, who would be forced to buy their health coverage on the Affordable Care Act’s new insurance exchanges.

But 57 minutes later, and with almost no debate, the Senate killed the House health care provisions and sent the stopgap spending bill right back, free of policy prescriptions. Earlier in the day, the Senate had taken less than 25 minutes to convene and dispose of a weekend budget proposal by the House Republicans. “They’ve lost their minds,” Mr. Reid said, before disposing of the House bill. “They keep trying to do the same thing over and over again.”

The federal government was then left essentially to run out of money at midnight, the end of the fiscal year, although the president signed a measure late Monday that would allow members of the military to continue to be paid. Representative Peter T. King, Republican of New York, said junior staff members were “being used as a sacrifice” for a political gambit, driven by Republican hard-liners in the Senate like Ted Cruz of Texas, that will go nowhere.

“They locked themselves into this situation, the dead end that Ted Cruz created,” Mr. King said. The budget confrontation — which threatened to close federal offices and facilities, idling thousands of workers around the country — stemmed from an unusual push by Republicans to undo a law that has been on the books for three years, through a presidential election, and that the Supreme Court largely upheld in 2012. A major part of the law is set to take effect Tuesday: the opening of insurance exchanges, where people without insurance will be able to obtain coverage.

Republicans argue that the administration has itself delayed elements of the law. They say it should be postponed for at least a year. Democrats say Republicans are being driven by the most extreme elements of their party to use the federal budget to extract concessions on health care that they could not win through the traditional legislative process. “The scary thing about the period we’re in right now is there is no clear end,” said Representative Chris Van Hollen, Democrat of Maryland.

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