As the first U.S. government shutdown in nearly two decades sent ripples across the country Tuesday, NBC News asked ordinary Americans to speak up and weigh in on one of the most dramatic and divisive political standoffs in recent history.
Thousands of people using the hashtag #DearCongress took to Twitter and Facebook to discuss the impact of lawmakers' failure to agree on a funding bill that would have averted a partial shutdown.
And in video messages recorded by NBC News just steps away from the U.S. Capitol building, scores of Americans slammed Congress and the political impasse that has brought Washington to a standstill, shuttered offices and sent millions of employees home.
Maryellen, a mother from New Hampshire visiting her two children in Washington, D.C., blasted legislators, calling the shutdown "absolutely ridiculous."
"It just doesn't make any sense," she said of the shutdown, which came after lawmakers failed to agree on a bill to finance the government past Sept. 30. The Senate nixed measures passed by the Republican-led House on Monday that would have delayed key provisions of the Affordable Care Act — aka "Obamacare" — while extending funding for a few weeks.
Jason, a California resident, blamed the Republican lawmakers who moved to attach anti-Obamacare language to funding legislation.
"I think there's nothing wrong with providing lower-income families with health insurance and affordable health insurance," he said.
He added: "The idea that they're shutting down the government, putting people out of work, possibly hurting the economy over ideological differences just seems a little ridiculous."
"Let's get the budget passed and get the government back in action."
Matt, a Washington, D.C., resident, sharply criticized partisan gridlock on the Beltway, saying it was "unfortunate that (Congress) couldn't come to a compromise" that would fund the government "for at least a few more months."
"It doesn't really seem to weigh on Congress" that ordinary Americans "are affected by" the shutdown "because they're obviously not affected by it," he said, adding that lawmakers will still receive their salaries and health care amid the government standstill.
He also suggested that lawmakers were oblivious to the potential economic costs of the shutdown.
Congress appears not to see "how this is affecting the people that can't work right now and need the money to pay their bills and take care of their family," Matt said.
Tim, a teenager on a class field trip from Rochester, N.Y., offered up a prescription for the political bickering that has brought Washington to its knees.
"I wish that the government would be a little more open-minded and both parties would really sit down and listen to each other instead of being so polarized and calling each other names," he said.
The shutdown has also hit tourists hoping to explore one of the nation's many public parks and attractions.
Andrew, who lives in London, said that American lawmakers have "ruined" his vacation because he can't "access any of the fantastic museums you have in Washington."
"That's a real shame," he said. "You've disenfranchised some visitors, I guess. And it won't only be me."
Related: Paychecks top of mind, women more active in #DearCongress chatter
First published October 1 2013, 2:42 PM