Anxiety is filling the air in Washington D.C., as the clock ticks closer to a federal government shutdown with no budget approval. Lawmakers continued the debate Friday, leaving tourists in the nation's capital wondering whether it will be their last day to see the sights, and government employees wondering whether Monday will be a day off from work.
Democrats and Republicans in Congress cannot seem to agree on a federal budget, but they can agree that a government shutdown will hurt the American people at home and abroad.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters Friday that the Republican-led House needs to make a quick decision to end the budget impasse. He warned that a government shutdown could affect everyone, from Americans trying to get a home or business loan to the nearly one million federal government employees who will be denied the right to come to work.
"A federal government shutdown doesn’t mean they lock the doors to the Capitol building in Washington, but it does mean it has everyday consequences for people throughout America," he said.
More than 30 House Republicans gathered on the steps of the Capitol Friday. They warned of the repercussions of a government shutdown on military personnel and their families.
Republican Representative Rick Crawford told reporters that one of his constituents in the military called him Friday expressing concern about his family's finances in case of a government shutdown.
"They got bills to pay. He's got a wife and four kids to feed. When the money is not there, their bills don't get paid. Their credit ratings suffer. We have opened up a can of worms here that we can't even calculate what the devastation might be to our military and their families. We are asking for responsibility from the Senate," Crawford said.
But tourists in Washington seem to have no interest in the political seesaw between the Democratic-held Senate and Republican-held House of Representatives.
Tourist Jane Stanz says if the tourist attractions are closed, she will spend her time writing letters to Congress. "Come on. Let's get with it. This isn't a political hot potato. Quit advancing political issues, let's get down to what needs to get done," Stanz said.
Tourist Susan Comstock is enjoying a front row seat to the budget debate in Washington. "I don’t think we could be at a better spot with all of this going on. I mean to be here when all this talk has been going on, it's been very interesting," she said.
A shutdown means American troops in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere around the world would have a temporary halt in their pay. In addition, as many as 800,000 of the 1.9 million civilian federal workers deemed non-essential could be told to not to come to work.
Federal government employee John Wade says it will affect his family’s budget, but that it comes with the job. "It’s just part of the process, I think. We get caught in the middle of it, but that is just the way it goes," he said.
But federal employee Geoffrey Suver does not feel the same. "I think it’s a disservice to the employees," Suver said.
Lawmakers have until midnight local time to pass a budget for fiscal year 2011, which ends September 30.
If not, Washington's art, history and cultural museums along the National Mall will be closed. Iconic monuments like the Statue of Liberty in New York City and the Washington Monument will be shut down.
And a popular springtime event in Washington, the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade, scheduled for Saturday will be called off.
Washington, D.C. residents will also find their trash not being picked up, because some city services are subsidized by federal funds.
It would be the first partial government shutdown in 15 years. In 1995-1996, a budget impasse between then-President Bill Clinton and Republican congressional leaders led to a pair of government shutdowns that lasted a total of 28 days.