Shutdown orders issued as Congress misses deadline

WASHINGTON (AP) — For the first time in

nearly two decades, the federal government staggered into a partial

shutdown Monday

at midnight after congressional Republicans stubbornly demanded

changes in the nation's health care law as the price for essential

federal funding and President Barack Obama and Democrats adamantly

refused.

As Congress gridlocked, Obama said a

"shutdown will have a very real economic impact on real people, right

away," with hundreds

of thousands of federal workers furloughed and veterans' centers,

national parks, most of the space agency and other government

operations shuttered.

He laid the blame at the feet of House Republicans, whom he accused of seeking to tie government funding to ideological demands,

"all to save face after making some impossible promises to the extreme right wing of their party."

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio,

responded a short while later on the House floor. "The American people

don't want a shutdown

and neither do I," he said. Yet, he added, the new health care law

"is having a devastating impact. ... Something has to be

done."

The stock market dropped on fears that

political deadlock between the White House and a tea party-heavy

Republican Party would

prevail, though analysts suggested significant damage to the

national economy was unlikely unless a shutdown lasted more than

a few days.

A few minutes before midnight, Budget Director Sylvia Burwell issued a directive to federal agencies to "execute plans for

an orderly shutdown." While an estimated 800,000 federal workers faced furloughs, some critical parts of the government —

from the military to air traffic controllers — would remain open.

Any interruption in federal funding would

send divided government into territory unexplored in nearly two decades.

Then, Republicans

suffered grievous political damage and President Bill Clinton

benefitted from twin shutdowns. Now, some Republicans said they

feared a similar outcome.

If nothing else, some Republicans also conceded it was impossible to use funding legislation to squeeze concessions from the

White House on health care. "We can't win," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

"We're on the brink," Sen. Barbara Mikulski, Md., said shortly after midday as the two houses maneuvered for political advantage

and the Obama administration's budget office prepared for a partial shutdown, the first since the winter of 1995-1996.

On a long day and night in the Capitol, the

Senate torpedoed one GOP attempt to tie government financing to changes

in "Obamacare."

House Republicans countered with a second despite unmistakable

signs their unity was fraying — and Senate Democrats promptly

rejected it, as well.

Defiant still, House Republicans decided to

re-pass their earlier measure and simultaneously request negotiations

with the

Senate on a compromise. Some aides conceded the move was largely

designed to make sure that the formal paperwork was on the

Senate's doorstep as the day ended.

Whatever its intent, Senate Majority Leader

Harry Reid, D-Nev., rejected it. "That closes government. They want to

close government,"

he said of House Republicans.

As lawmakers squabbled, Obama spoke bluntly

about House Republicans. "You don't get to extract a ransom for doing

your job,

for doing what you're supposed to be doing anyway, or just because

there's a law there that you don't like," he said. Speaking

of the health care law that undergoes a major expansion on

Tuesday, he said emphatically, "That funding is already in place.

You can't shut it down."

Some Republicans balked, moderates and conservatives alike.

Rep. Phil Gingrey of Georgia said it felt as if Republicans were retreating, given their diminishing demands, and Rep. Scott

Rigell of Virginia said there was not unanimity when the rank and file met to discuss a next move.

Yet for the first time since the showdown began more than a week ago, there was also public dissent from the Republican strategy

that has been carried out at the insistence of lawmakers working in tandem with GOP Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.

Rep. Charles Dent, R-Pa., said he was willing to vote for stand-alone legislation that would keep the government running and

contained no health care-related provisions. "I would be supportive of it, and I believe the votes are there in the House

to pass it at that point," the fifth-term congressman said.

Other Republicans sought to blame Democrats for any shutdown, but Dent conceded that Republicans would bear the blame, whether

or not they deserved it.

Hours before the possible shutdown, the

Senate voted 54-46 to reject the House-passed measure that would have

kept the government

open but would have delayed implementation of the health care law

for a year and permanently repealed a medical device tax

that helps finance it.

In response, House Republicans sought

different concessions in exchange for allowing the government to remain

open. They called

for a one-year delay in a requirement in the health care law for

individuals to purchase coverage. The same measure also would

require members of Congress and their aides as well as the

president, vice president and the administration's political appointees

to bear the full cost of their own coverage by barring the

government from making the customary employer contribution.

"This is a matter of funding the government and providing fairness to the American people," said Boehner. "Why wouldn't members

of Congress vote for it?"

The vote was 228-201, with a dozen Republicans opposed and nine Democrats in favor.

Unimpressed, Senate Democrats swatted it on a 54-46 party line vote about an hour later.

Obama followed up his public remarks with

phone calls to Boehner and the three other top leaders of Congress,

telling Republicans

he would continue to oppose attempts to delay or cut federal

financing of the health care law.

The impact of a shutdown would be felt unevenly.

Many low-to-moderate-income borrowers and first-time homebuyers seeking government-backed mortgages could face delays, and

Obama said veterans' centers would be closed.

About 800,000 federal workers, many already

reeling from the effect of automatic budget cuts, would be ordered to

report to

work Tuesday for about four hours — but only to carry out

shutdown-related chores such as changing office voicemail messages

and completing time cards.

Some critical services such as patrolling

the borders and inspecting meat would continue. Social Security benefits

would be

sent, and the Medicare and Medicaid health care programs for the

elderly and poor would continue to pay doctors and hospitals.

U.S. troops were shielded from any damage to their wallets when Obama signed legislation assuring the military would be paid

in the in the event of a shutdown.

That had no impact on those who labor at other agencies.

"I know some other employees, if you don't have money saved, it's going to be difficult," said Thelma Manley, who has spent

seven years as a staff assistant with the Internal Revenue Service during a 30-year career in government.

As for herself, she said, "I'm a Christian, I trust in God wholeheartedly and my needs will be met." She added, "I do have

savings, so I can go to the reserve, so to speak."