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

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs