The partial shutdown of the federal government is in its second day with no signs of progress in the standoff between Democrats and Republicans. On Tuesday, House Republicans failed to win approval for a piecemeal effort to continue funding for national parks, veterans care and the District of Columbia. Democrats say they will only accept a bill funding the entire federal government, not select programs that Republicans want to spare from their push to repeal “Obamacare.” Republicans brought about the shutdown after tying government funding to an “Obamacare” delay. The shutdown means furloughs for more than 800,000 government employees and forcing millions more to work without pay. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid blamed Republicans for bringing the government to a halt.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid: “All over America, federal employees are — they were given four hours this morning to clear off their emails, computers, close down their offices, all over America. They were asked to come to work at 8 o’clock this morning. By noon, they’re out of their offices. The government is closed because of the irrationality of what’s going on on the other side of the Capitol. That’s unfortunate, but that’s the way it is.”
Both the White House and the Democratic-controlled Senate have rejected Republican calls to hold new talks, saying “Obamacare” is non-negotiable. House Speaker John Boehner blamed the shutdown on the Democrats’ stance.
House Speaker John Boehner: “My goodness, they won’t even sit down and have a discussion about this. Our country has big problems. Today our government has big problems. The only way these problems are going to be resolved, if we sit down amicably and keep the American people in mind and come to an agreement.”
The shutdown is forcing the closure or reduction of a range of government services, including key programs for children in need. Head Start, the preschool program for low-income families, says it has lost grant money for 23 programs in 11 different states, impacting some 19,000 children. This comes on top of the 57,000 children removed from Head Start this fall because of budget cuts under the sequester. In a statement, the head of the National Head Start Association, Yasmina Vinci, said: “This abdication of responsibility by Congress and leaders in Washington has further displaced the at-risk children already reeling from sequester. Government shutdown is one cut atop an already deep wound.” If the shutdown continues for another week, the Department of Agriculture will stop funding a nutrition program aiding nine million women and children. The Women, Infants and Children program helps pregnant women and new mothers with the purchase of healthy food. And for every week the shutdown continues, around 10 child cancer patients will be denied clinical trials due to cutbacks at the National Institutes of Health.
The shutdown has also led to the closure of federal sites nationwide. National landmarks including the Statue of Liberty and Lincoln Memorial have been shuttered. On Tuesday, a group of elderly veterans defied the newly erected barricades to enter the National World War II Memorial on their own. In what critics called a publicity stunt by Republicans responsible for the shutdown, the veterans were accompanied by a group of House lawmakers.
As the U.S. government shutdown began, a key facet of President Obama’s healthcare law went live nationwide. For the first time, Americans were able to begin purchasing health insurance from federal and state exchanges. Nearly three million people visited the federal website HealthCare.gov, while New York’s state site claimed it had more than 10 million hits. The heavy traffic fueled major glitches, with users facing long wait times and error messages preventing access. Appearing with uninsured Americans at the White House, President Obama said that despite initial road bumps, “Obamacare” is here to stay.
President Obama: “For them, and millions like them, this is a historic day, for a good reason. It’s been a long time coming. But today Americans who have been forced to go without insurance can now visit healthcare.gov and enroll in affordable new plans that offer quality coverage. That starts today.”
As both “Obamacare” enrollment and the government shutdown began, the Treasury Department officially notified Congress that the United States faces an October 17 deadline to extend the debt ceiling. The federal government will run out of money to pay off its debts unless lawmakers raise the nation’s borrowing limit. Republicans have also threatened to push for an “Obamacare” repeal in the debt ceiling debate. In a bid to focus on the congressional impasse, President Obama has canceled stops in Malaysia and the Philippines as part of his upcoming trip to Asia.
A dying prisoner has been released in Louisiana after serving nearly 42 years in solitary confinement, longer than any other prisoner in the United States. Herman Wallace and two others, known as the Angola Three, were placed in solitary in 1972 following the murder of a prison guard. The Angola Three and their supporters say they were framed for their political activism as members of one of the first prison chapters of the Black Panthers. In a surprise development, Wallace was released from prison Tuesday after a federal judge overturned his conviction, saying he did not receive a fair trial. Wallace, who is near death from advanced liver cancer, was taken directly to a New Orleans hospital where supporters greeted his arrival. Click here to see our coverage of his case and these developments.
A former Guatemalan commando has been found guilty of immigration fraud for concealing his role in a 1982 massacre. On Tuesday, a federal jury convicted Jorge Vinicio Sosa Orantes for lying about his involvement in the killings of 250 civilians in the Guatemalan hamlet of Dos Erres. As a lieutenant in Guatemala’s notorious Kaibiles special forces, Sosa is said to have overseen the extermination of Dos Erres villagers, reportedly ordering his unit to throw babies down a well. He faces 10 years in prison, the revocation of his U.S. citizenship and possibly deportation to Guatemala..