Shutdown begins as Congress remains deadlocked

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A federal government shutdown officially began Tuesday morning as a deadlocked Congress failed to reach an agreement on a short-term funding measure by a 12:01 a.m. ET deadline.

Government officials told agencies to begin executing plans for a shutdown -- the first in 17 years -- shortly before midnight Monday. 

In a memo to executive branch officers sent less than half an hour before the deadline, Office of Management and Budget director Sylvia Burwell said there was no "clear indication" that Congress would reach an agreement to keep the government's lights on.

"Agencies should now execute plans for an orderly shutdown due to the absence of appropriations," she wrote. "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, and to restore the operation of critical public services and programs that will be impacted by a lapse in appropriations."

"This is a sad day for America," Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on the Senate floor. 

The shutdown is expected to place tens of thousands of federal workers on furlough, close national parks and monuments, and disrupt services like food assistance and IRS audits.

Services like benefit payments and national security operations would go on as usual, and -- because of a bipartisan measure passed by both houses of Congress and signed into law by the president late Monday -- members of the military will continue to be paid.

The new health care insurance "exchanges" mandated by the new health care law also went live even as the shutdown became official.

As the clock ticked down to midnight, the House announced that it would try to shift decision-making to a bipartisan "conference" of lawmakers from both chambers, but Reid immediately rejected that plan.

“We will not go to conference with a gun to our head," he said.

The House formally requested the conference -- and it again approved its already-rejected budget plan -- in votes after 1 a.m. ET before recessing for the evening. 

The Senate will reconvene at 9:30 a.m. ET, and Reid promised to immediately table -- or kill -- the House conference plan first thing Tuesday morning.

House Republicans say they support the conference plan to hash out some middle ground between the Democratic Senate's "clean" government funding bill and the GOP-led House's proposal to delay a key part of Obamacare and nix health care subsidies for congressional staffers.

"It means we're the reasonable, responsible actors trying to keep the process alive as the clock ticks past midnight, despite Washington Democrats' refusal - thus far - to negotiate," the GOP aide said before the vote. 

After the plan was reported, Reid said the Senate wouldn't "go to conference until we get a clean CR,” and accused Republicans of “playing games” at the eleventh hour.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., told reporters the conference plan was simply "a recipe for shutting down the government." 

Earlier Monday, the Senate twice rejected House-passed measures that would have delayed key provisions of Obamacare while funding the government for an additional few weeks.

Reid said on the Senate floor Monday that Republicans "have lost their minds" by repeatedly voting for "ridiculous policy riders" destined for failure in the Democratically-controlled Senate. 

Speaking shortly before the first House vote Monday, Boehner said the measure to delay the mandate was about "fairness."

"I would say to the president: This is not about me," Boehner said. "This is not about Republicans here in Congress. It's about fairness for the American people."

The president spoke by phone Monday to Boehner as well as to other congressional leaders in both chambers, the White House said. His call to Boehner lasted about 10 minutes, an aide said.

The call came shortly after the president urged Republicans to pass a “clean” funding bill rather than tying an Obamacare-delaying provision to the legislation and accused GOP leaders of acting to "save face after making some impossible promises to the extreme right wing of their party."

“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," he said during a statement at the White House.

In an afternoon interview with NPR News, Obama reiterated that any funding measure that involves major changes to Obamacare is a non-starter.

Asked what he can ‘offer’ towards a compromise – especially once the debate shifts to the debt ceiling -- Obama insisted he should not have to negotiate over the issue.

“I shouldn't have to offer anything,” he told radio host Steve Inskeep. “They're not doing me a favor by paying for things that they have already approved for the government to do. That's part of their basic function of government, that's not doing me a favor.”

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