The impact of the first government shutdown in 17 years was felt across America on Tuesday as offices were shuttered and workers were sent home after lawmakers failed to come to a deal to keep the lights on.
The Statue of Liberty closed its doors, fountains on the National Mall trickled out and the beloved "panda-cam" at the National Zoo went dark, all effects of Congress' inability to keep the government funded. The Centers for Disease Control said it would see “significant impact” to its operations as a result of the shutdown, and government employees feared the long-term effects on their income with no end in sight.
Voters voiced their anger on Tuesday about the shutdown, which came after lawmakers reached an impasse on a bill to finance the government past Sept. 30. The Senate rejected measures passed by the Republican-led House on Monday that would have delayed key portions of the Affordable Care Act while extending funding for a few weeks.
“I’m annoyed as I start my 5:30 a.m. shift of my second job (while going to school) that you’re just not showing up to work,” Sam Budzisz wrote on Twitter with the hashtag #DearCongress.
“Thanks for the shutdown and lack of pay,” Twyla Strogen said in another tweet. “We, the public, your bosses, will return the favor at the polls.”
The Senate reconvened at 9:30 a.m. ET on Tuesday after the House requested a bipartisan conference of lawmakers be convened to hash out the crisis – a plan immediately rejected by Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
The shutdown was expected to have sweeping effects across the nation as hundreds of thousands of federal employees faced indefinite furloughs, tourist destinations shut down and services including food assistance and IRS audits are disrupted. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which collects employment numbers, said on its website that it would not “collect data, issue reports, or respond to public inquiries” for the length of the shutdown.
Senators’ state offices shut down, including those of Democratic Senator Tom Carper of Delaware, whose office said in an email that his staff would not be able to answer calls or respond to other requests from constituents for the duration of the shutdown.
President Obama blamed the government shutdown on a “faction” of House Republicans in a statement from the White House on Tuesday.
“They’ve shut down the government over an ideological crusade to deny affordable health insurance to millions of Americans,” the president said. “In other words they demanded ransom just for doing their job.”
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell blamed Democrats, saying that they “dragged their feet for days” and rejected bills passed by the House that would have kept the government funded, if only for a little while.
Barricades were set to go up around the National Mall, NBC Washington reported.
“We have 3,000 permitted events on the Mall every year,” Carol Johnson with the National Park Service told the station. “While the government is shut down, all of those events have to be canceled,” she said, including an “honor flight” Tuesday of veterans from Mississippi. Visitors walked freely around the memorial after a group of visiting veterans bypassed the barricade on Tuesday morning, but remained technically closed.
A number of District restaurants and at least one Pilates studio is offering free or discounted services to furloughed federal employees for as long as the shutdown lasts, NBC Washington reported.
“It’s a mess, Congress needs to get their act together. Seriously, they’re like kids on the playground, fighting, fighting for nothing. It’s ridiculous,” said Leathey Chandler, an employee at the Department of Agriculture. “It was ridiculous then and it’s ridiculous now. Get it together, people.”
Another USDA employee, Lawrence Albert, said he was going into work to set up an email away message and change his voicemail before heading home.
“I think it’s miserable, it has nothing to do with democracy or lobbying for causes,” Albert said. “This is not the way government should work at all, it’s a disgrace.”
Employees feared furloughs at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state on Tuesday, where 16,000 civilians work, according to Seattle NBC News affiliate King 5. The base released a statement on Monday saying that civilian employees should report to work on Tuesday, but did not say who would be considered essential enough to stay on.
“How much more does the federal employee have to endure?” base employee Matthew Hines asked, according to King 5. “We’ve already been jerked around.”
The CDC would completely close the “vast majority” of its operations, it announced in a release on Tuesday morning. The shutdown would lead to a slower response to public health issues, and its activity monitoring diseases, including flu season, will be severely slashed.
The shutdown had some immediate international repercussions as the American Battle Monuments Commission, which manages two dozen U.S. military cemeteries in foreign nations, closed all of its monuments and memorials.
Tourist destinations in New England braced for the full impact of the shutdown, darkening the Fanueil Hall Visitor Center in Boston and closing down Acadia National Park in Maine, according to the Boston Globe.
“It’s going to be a kind of ripple effect,” Sean Hennessey, spokesman for the National Park Service, told the newspaper. “There’s a significant economic impact that our national parks have in their communities.”
The partial government shutdown was even felt in sports competitions at the nation’s military academies as the Defense Department said it has suspended all contests.
Whether two football games – Air Force vs. Navy and Army vs. Boston College – would be called off was being reviewed by Pentagon lawyers, who are determining if money for the games comes from congressionaly approved funds, The Associated Press reported.
Army is scheduled to play Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Mass., on Saturday.
"We have been in close communication with Army athletics officials regarding the potential effect of the government shutdown on this Saturday's football game," Boston College said in a statement on Tuesday, adding that the two schools had not reached a resolution. "Obviously our intention is to exhaust all possibilities to play the game."
Ohio resident Maureen Brown told local affiliate NBC 4 that she was worried about the effect that shutdown would have on government workers in her area.
“You think the government is a secure job that you don’t have to worry about stuff like that, but nowadays you do, nothing is secure anymore,” Brown, herself a former government employee, told the affiliate. “If they don’t work then they don’t go shopping, they don’t buy a house and that affects everybody and it makes the economy worse than it is.”
The shutdown found a supporter in Missoula, Mont., where resident Dennis Curtis told NBC Montana that he believed it would help cut costs.
“We really need a shutdown and we need a shutdown for months,” Curtis said. “How long are we going to continue to borrow from China and Japan and all of these other countries because we just can’t do it? We’re going to collapse this country.”
Many others said that even a short-term furlough could cut deep into their finances, including 23-year-old park ranger Darquez Smith.
“I’ve got a lot on my plate right now – tuition, my daughter, bills,” Smith, a ranger at Ohio’s Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park, told the Associated Press. “I’m just confused and waiting just like everyone else.”
Department of Veterans Affairs employee Marc Cevasco told the AP he was going to work on Tuesday, but planned to be furlough indefinitely after that.
“Even if it’s just shut down for a week, that’s a quarter of your pay this month. That means a lot to a lot of people,” Cevasco, 30, told the news service.
Twenty-eight poison ivy-eating goats were removed from the Gateway National Recreation Area in New Jersey after their owner became worried that a government shutdown would shutter the park where the goats had been recruited to eat the pesky weed, according to the Asbury Park Press. The goats had been a “tremendous hit” with parkgoers, the president of the Sandy Hook Foundation told the paper.
NBC News’ Carrie Dann and Michael O’Brien contributed to this report.The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.
First published October 1 2013, 12:59 PM