News / USA

US Congressional Leaders, President to Meet on Government Shutdown

From left, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev., Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Senate Budget Committee Chair Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., announce that President Barack Obama has invited the top leaders in Congress to meet with him at the White Ho
From left, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev., Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Senate Budget Committee Chair Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., announce that President Barack Obama has invited the top leaders in Congress to meet with him at the White Ho
Cindy Saine
The White House has announced that the top four Republican and Democratic congressional leaders are going to the White House late Wednesday afternoon to meet with President Barack Obama to try to resolve a political stalemate that has shut down large parts of the U.S. government.

In the first sign of possible progress on the political stalemate that has caused a government shutdown, Democratic Senate Majority leader Harry Reid, Republican Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell, Republican House Speaker John Boehner and Democratic Minority leader Nancy Pelosi are heading to the White House for talks with President Obama. The announcement comes just as some lawmakers and experts were bracing for a possible longer shutdown.

National Parks across the country are still closed, and the Food and Drug Administration has suspended routine monitoring of food and drug imports.

Late Tuesday, the Republican-led House failed to pass three spending measures to fund three specific parts of the government: national parks, veterans' services, and the District of Columbia. House Democrats refused to vote for the individual bills, calling on Republican House Speaker John Boehner to let the House vote on the clean bill passed by the Senate to fund the whole government. Similar votes are expected Wednesday in the House.

How The Shutdown is Affecting Services

  • About 800,000 federal workers furloughed
  • The military's 1.4 million active-duty personnel remain on duty, their paychecks delayed
  • NASA is furloughing almost all its employees
  • Air traffic controllers and screeners staying on the job
  • Federal courts continue to operate
  • Mail deliveries continue since U.S. Postal Service is not funded by tax dollars
  • Most Homeland Security employees continue to work
  • Most veterans' services continue because they are funded in advance
  • National Parks and Smithsonian museums closing
Senate Majority leader Harry Reid made clear he will not pick and choose among which government agencies to reopen. "Speaker Boehner and House Republicans are engaging in silly, empty politician stunts."

House Republicans called on Democratic President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats to sit down and negotiate with them. Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, a Republican, indicated that any discussions likely would include talks over raising the national debt limit.

What Does a U.S. Government Shutdown Mean?

  • Large parts of the federal government need to be funded each year to operate
  • If Congress cannot agree on how to fund them, those parts of the government shut down
  • During a shutdown, federal workers are separated into excepted and non-excepted employees
  • Excepted must continue to work, and will be paid when Congress funds the government again
  • Non-excepted are furloughed and not guaranteed to receive back-pay
  • Parts of the government dealing with national security and public safety and those with independent funding like the Postal Service continue to operate
  • Other parts shut down, including National Parks, the EPA and the processing of visa and passport applications
  • The last government shutdown lasted 21 days and ended on January 6, 1996
"We have a debt limit coming. That debt limit is coming in about two weeks. Most budget agreements in the past have always involved debt limit increases. We think that is the forcing mechanism. That is what we think will be the forcing action to bring the two parties together," said Ryan.

Possible protracted shutdown

Experts say they don't see a quick end to the standoff.

Ron Fournier, of National Journal that covers political news and analysis, said, "Yeah, I can't see it ending this week because the [stock] markets have not gone crazy and the voters are not lighting up the switchboards. The markets have built in Washington dysfunction."

A core group of House Republicans is insisting on tying together measures to fund the government and raise the debt ceiling in an effort to derail the president's signature legislative achievement, the health care law.  

Republicans under fire

Fournier said House Republicans' tactics are unprecedented and dangerous. "There has not been a time when we have had a minority party threaten to undermine the nation's credit and to bring about economic calamity on the country if they don't get their way on a bill that they lost on a couple of years ago," he said.

Political analyst Larry Sabato warned that Republicans may be playing with political fire. "The longer the shutdown goes on, the more likely it is the Republicans are going to pay a big price. Speaker Boehner undoubtedly knows that. The whole leadership in the House knows that. That is why they did not want to go this route, but they embraced it because the activists in their own caucus insisted on it," said Sabato.

Obama also has made clear he would veto any piecemeal measures to fund individual programs or agencies, calling on the House to, as he says, "do its job and pay its bills."

You May Like

Mood Tense Ahead of Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, 'No' voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve, 'Yes' vote not worth the risk More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid