|US GOVERNMENT SHUTS DOWN, BUDGET OFFICIAL ORDERS ORDERLY CLOSURE
The US government has just shut shut down late Monday in Washington for the first time in 17 years. But as the hours wound down to midnight local time, Republican lawmakers offered to begin negotiations about reaching a budget deal.
The White House budget director has ordered federal agencies to begin closing down after Congress failed to pass a budget to avert a government shutdown.
"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, AFP reports.
After a series of back-and-forth votes in both chambers that did nothing to bring Congress closer to an agreement over how to temporarily fund the government, House leaders moved to appoint conferees, or negotiators, to work out a deal.
But the procedures of Congress make it virtually impossible to pass legislation from this vantage point quickly enough to meet the deadline.
“We're attempting to get our people together,'' said Republican congressman Pete Sessions, chairman of the House Rules Committee that went into emergency session with barely an hour to spare.
“There could be a conference as early as tonight.''
Democrats on the committee were not buying it, with congressman Alcee Hastings issuing a blistering critique of House leadership.
“It is impossible for a conference to get together before 2:00 am [local time Tuesday],’’ Hastings said in committee.
Democrat James McGovern concurred, saying “I can't imagine you working out any differences between now and the time the government shuts down.''
The Rules Committee voted 9-4 on the motion, setting up a rapid-fire series of political steps, that are nonetheless unlikely to be completed by midnight local time.
Republican have offered three bills that fund government into the next fiscal year which begins Tuesday, but each attached controversial provisions that sought to either defund or delay President Barack Obama's health care law.
Obama and Democrats want Congress to pass a “clean'' budget, with no political or ideology-driven providers attached, while Republicans are intent on trying to unravel so-called “Obamacare,'' the president's signature domestic legislative achievement.