U.S. federal agencies have been ordered to shut down by the White House budget director late Monday after Congress missed a deadline to pass a budget.
The government headed toward a shutdown over Republican efforts to halt President Barack Obama's healthcare reforms as last minute maneuvers failed to resolve deep differences between Democrats and Republicans.
“Agencies should now execute plans for an orderly shutdown due to the absence of appropriations,” said Sylvia Mathews Burwell, director Of the White House Office of Management and Budget in a memo to news agencies.
“We urge Congress to act quickly to pass a Continuing Resolution to provide a short-term bridge that ensures sufficient time to pass a budget for the remainder of the fiscal year,” Burwell added.
The decision was taken ten minutes before midnight, following a day of angry brinkmanship between Obama’s Democrats and rival Republicans.
According to Agence France-Presse, lawmakers had hardly haggled over budgetary matters in the final hours before the deadline -- the end of the fiscal year. Instead, they argued over whether to link the budget pact with efforts to delay Obama’s health care law
Obama accused Republicans of holding America at ransom with their “extreme” political demands, while his opponents struck back at his party’s supposed arrogance.
“One faction of one party in one house of Congress in one branch of government doesn’t get to shut down the entire government just to re-fight the results of an election,” Obama said, referring to his own re-election.
“You don’t get to extract a ransom for doing your job, for doing what you’re supposed to be doing anyway,” he said, in a stern televised statement at the White House.
Now, about 800,000 government workers are expected to be sent home, government services are to be slashed and monuments such as the Statue of Liberty and national parks will close, AFP reported.
The crisis is rooted in an attempt by “Tea Party” Republicans in the House to make passage of a new government budget conditional on thwarting Obama’s signature health reform law.
The Democratic-led Senate and the president have repeatedly rejected this strategy and urged Republicans to pass an extension to government funding to temporarily stave off the shutdown.
In a deeper sense, the shutdown is the most serious crisis yet in a series of rolling ideological skirmishes between Democrat Obama and House Republicans over the size of the US government and its role in national life.
The crisis, described as “an unnecessary blow to America” by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, was the first such disaster since 1996.
(With AFP and Reuters)