U.S. Reckons With Impact of Shutdown

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WASHINGTON -- Barricades and padlocks closed access to federal facilities across the country Tuesday as the vast machinery of the federal government began systematically shutting down operations for the first time in nearly two decades.

Americans seeking services at federal buildings found the doors shuttered, and more than 800,000 federal employees braced for an uncertain financial future as their employers turned out the lights and told them to stay home. Tourists were turned away at the entrances to hundreds of national parks and monuments.

In Washington, a group of about 90 World War II veterans from Mississippi and Iowa made it past the barricades of the World War II Memorial with a little help from some of the very Republican lawmakers who just hours earlier had deadlocked the legislative process by demanding that President Obama retreat from his health care law. But at the Statue of Liberty in New York, tourists from Norway and China were prevented from getting close to the monument of freedom.

Haiyan Wang's 9-year-old nephew, Tony, had been "wanting to go inside the Statue of Liberty for a long time," Ms. Wang said Tuesday morning at Liberty State Park in Jersey City. She said her visiting relatives did not really understand what had happened in Washington, because "the Chinese government never closes down."

The reality of the shutdown became clear as the hours ticked by: Children's playgrounds in small parks around Capitol Hill were closed. The military service academies suspended all intercollegiate sports competitions. The National Zoo's online "PandaCam" stopped showing images of the latest baby panda.

Among the most noticeable impacts of the first shutdown of the Internet era: many complex government Web sites were suddenly replaced by one-page notices like the one at Census.gov, which declared that "due to the lapse in government funding, census.gov sites, services, and all online survey collection requests will be unavailable until further notice."

Government Twitter accounts also went dark.

Weary lawmakers gave up hope of passing a budget late Monday in the face of Republican attacks on Mr. Obama's health care law. The lawmakers failed to agree on a new budget and refused to extend the current one. Without the authority to spend money, the executive branch on Tuesday morning started the process of temporarily mothballing facilities and suspending the many services the government provides.

After a series of back-and-forth legislative maneuvers late Monday night and into Tuesday morning, the House and Senate did not reach a resolution, and the Senate halted business until later Tuesday, while the House took steps to open talks. On Tuesday morning, the Senate rejected a House proposal to begin conference committee negotiations, and the next legislative steps remained uncertain.

Mail delivery continues as usual, financed by fees rather than the federal budget. Amtrak trains are still running, and officials said meat inspectors, border control agents and Transportation Security Administration screeners would stay on the job. But many of the government's services quickly evaporated Tuesday as agencies ordered a majority of their employees not to show up for work.

At the Internal Revenue Service office in downtown Denver, Andres Decasas walked into the building's lobby, hoping to pay the $550 tax he owed on his commercial sand and gravel trucking business. The money was due today, he said. He was turned away.

"Do they have a number I can call?" he asked to no one in particular. "Can I pay them tomorrow? I need to renew this so I can work."

The Consumer Product Safety Commission said it would stop recalls of products that do not present an imminent threat to consumer safety. The Food and Drug Administration, which inspects a majority of the food Americans eat, told its food inspectors to say home, suspending routine establishment inspections and monitoring of imported foods and drugs.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention furloughed about 68 percent of its staff. The C.D.C. said it would be unable to help state and local officials in infectious disease surveillance, and said the shutdown would significantly reduce its capacity to respond to food and disease outbreaks.

At the Justice Department, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. pledged to give back a portion of his salary in solidarity with his employees. Meanwhile, antitrust lawyers at the department filed a two-page motion Tuesday morning requesting that the case against the merger between American Airlines and US Airways be deferred because of the lack of funding from Congress.

"This is creating difficulties for the department to perform the functions necessary to support its litigation efforts," the lawyers said in its motion to the court.

At the Federal Communications Commission, officials said the agency would send all but about 38 of its 1,716 employees home for the duration of the shutdown. Those "essential" employees will keep working on programs that address radio interference detection, treaty negotiations and other critical information technology issues, officials said.

Traveling in Seoul, South Korea, on Tuesday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called the shutdown "nonsensical" and said it would lead to the immediate furlough of about 400,000 civilian employees. (Mr. Obama signed legislation late Monday ensuring that uniformed members of the military will get paid during the shutdown.)

"It does cast a very significant pall over America's credibility with our allies when this kind of thing happens," Mr. Hagel said. "It's nonsensical. It's needless. It didn't have to happen."

As the shutdown approached on Monday, James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, sent a classified assessment of its impact to members of Congress on the intelligence committees. One Congressional aide said the assessment was "very troubling" to many members because it showed a "very considerable reduction in force while the shutdown goes on."

The aide, who declined to be named discussing a classified report, said Mr. Clapper declassified one sentence from the assessment: "Approximately 72 percent of the civilian work force will be furloughed."

The crowds were lighter than normal early Tuesday at L'Enfant Plaza in Washington, where there are a number of federal agencies. Phillip Davenport, a management analyst at the Federal Aviation Administration, who was deemed an essential employee, said he was expecting a heavier workload.

During the last shutdown 17 years ago, Mr. Davenport was on active duty in the military, based in Alaska, he said. "Back then, I don't remember for sure, but we came to work regardless of whether we were paid or not," he said.

On Monday afternoon, Mr. Obama described the potential closings in the case of a shutdown. He noted that "every one of the parks and monuments" would be immediately closed. That process began early Tuesday as park officials restricted access to some of the country's most iconic locations and barricades went up to keep out tourists.

The National Zoo in Washington closed its gates. A message on the zoo's Web site said that "all vehicle, pedestrian, and bicycle paths into the zoo will be closed. None of our live animal cams will broadcast." The Web site added that "all the animals will continue to be fed and cared for." By 10 a.m., the panda cam said simply: "Error loading stream."

At Subs and Salads, a small restaurant that sits across Forsyth Street from one of Atlanta's federal buildings, Shafi Jamil said no customers had visited for breakfast.

"When things like this happen and it affects everyone around, I kind of feel like the government is being selfish," said Mr. Jamil, whose mother owns the restaurant. "Not only are they hurting the employees that they have, but they're also hurting the businesses that are around, like my mom's store."

Mr. Jamil said that the restaurant, a staple of the area for well over a decade, had already been hurt by sequestration and earlier furloughs of federal workers.

After a general retreat on Monday, global investors reacted calmly on Tuesday in the hours after Congressional negotiations collapsed, as investors focused on the Oct. 17 deadline for raising the debt ceiling.

Stocks on Wall Street opened slightly higher, while European and Asian stocks were mixed. The bond and foreign exchange markets were quiet.

Those looking for financial data to assess the impact of the shutdown will have to do it without help from the Congressional Budget Office and the Census Bureau, both of which are closing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is scheduled to issue its monthly jobs report this Friday, is also closing, and it said the jobs report would most likely be postponed.

Across Washington, commercial establishments sought ways to try to minimize the impact of the shutdown. Late Monday, several bars and restaurants started advertising "shutdown specials" for those who wandered in.

At Z-Burger, a popular hamburger chain in the Washington area, owners pledged to make good on their promise for a free burger for every furloughed federal worker. In a Twitter post, it said: "AlmostHere IF #GovernmentShutdown #FREE #Burgers."

College Park Mixed Martial Arts, just outside Washington in suburban Maryland, is offering free training for federal employees who are out of work because of the shutdown.

Reporting was contributed by Patrick McGeehan from New Jersey, Dan Frosch from Denver, Kim Severson and Alan Blinder from Atlanta, Jennifer Steinhauer from Seoul, Charlie Savage, Emmarie Huetteman, Ron Nixon, Ashley Southall and Eric Schmitt from Washington, Jad Mouawad and Victoria Shannon from New York.


This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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