WASHINGTON -- The political stare-down on Capitol Hill shows no signs of easing, leaving federal government functions -- from informational websites, to national parks, to processing veterans' claims -- in limbo from coast to coast. Lawmakers in both parties ominously suggested the partial shutdown might last for weeks.
A funding cutoff for much of the government began Tuesday as a Republican effort to kill or delay the nation's health care law stalled action on a short-term, traditionally routine spending bill. Republicans pivoted to a strategy to try to reopen the government piecemeal but were unable to immediately advance the idea in the House.
National parks like Yellowstone and Alcatraz Island were shuttered, government websites went dark and hundreds of thousands of nonessential workers reported for a half-day to fill out time cards, hand in their government cellphones and laptops, and change voicemail messages to gird for a deepening shutdown.
Defiance: One group defied the shutdown's effects: Veterans piled off
chartered buses in front of the World War II Memorial, some in wheelchairs, some using canes, all determined to pay homage to each other and their fallen comrades from more than half a century ago.
Metal barricades and signs about a closure due to the shutdown of the federal government awaited them.
The men surged forward, and a
Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., said he believed the Park Service opened the gates. Rep Bill Huizenga, R-Mich., said congressmen accompanying the group did it.
"I'm not going to enforce the 'no stopping or standing' sign for a group of 90 World War II veterans," said a U.S. Park Police officer who declined to give his name. "I'm a veteran myself."
The veterans, from Mississippi, were visiting the memorial on the National Mall of as part of an honor flight program. They had chartered an $80,000 airplane, and their plans were too far advanced to postpone when the government shut down, said Wayne Lennep, spokesman for the Mississippi Gulf Coast honor flights.
At the Korean War Memorial, a group of veterans from Puerto Rico also moved barricades aside in order to lay a wreath. The veterans represented members of the 65th Army regiment, which fought in Korea.
Health care: Even as many government agencies closed their doors, health insurance exchanges that are at the core of President Barack Obama's health care law were up and running, taking applications for coverage that would start Jan. 1.
"Shutting down our government doesn't accomplish their stated goal," Obama said of his Republican opponents at a Rose Garden event hailing implementation of the law. "The Affordable Care Act is a law that passed the House; it passed the Senate. The Supreme Court ruled it constitutional. It was a central issue in last year's election. It is settled, and it is here to stay. And because of its funding sources, it's not impacted by a government shutdown."
GOP leaders faulted the Senate for killing a House request to open official negotiations on the temporary spending bill. Senate Democrats led by Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada insist that Republicans give in and pass their simple, straightforward temporary funding bill, known as a continuing resolution.
"None of us want to be in a shutdown. And we're here to say to the Senate Democrats, 'Come and talk to us,'" House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said as GOP lawmakers designated to negotiate the shutdown legislation met among themselves before cameras and reporters.
Local lawmakers: U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-York County, said he sees a light at the end of the tunnel.
"The question is how far away that light is," Perry said Tuesday afternoon. "The Senate and president can bring the light front and center immediately."
Perry blamed the standstill on a stubborn president and his fellow Democrats.
He said Republicans in the House have offered four "bipartisan opportunities to avert where we currently are."
The Senate has rejected Republicans' offers, and the president has said he won't negotiate, Perry said.
"What we're trying to show the president and the world is that we are here, we're working and we are ready to resolve the problem with a willing partner," he said.
But in a statement released Tuesday, U.S. Senator Bob Casey, D-Pa., called the GOP stance "reckless and irresponsible."
"Pennsylvanians have a right to be angry that a reckless minority in one faction of one party in one house of Congress has forced the government to shut down for the first time in 17 years and I share their outrage.
"The (House) Speaker could act to open the government today by allowing a vote on the funding bill that the Senate first sent to the House on Friday. In a 20-minute vote, the shutdown would be over."
Poll: Meanwhile, a poll released Tuesday points to a rejection of congressional Republicans' strategy, with Americans overwhelmingly against undermining the health care law by shutting down the federal government or resisting an increase in the nation's debt limit.
By 72 percent to 22 percent, Americans oppose Congress "shutting down major activities of the federal government" as a way to stop the Affordable Care Act from going into effect, the national survey from Quinnipiac University found.
By 64 percent to 27 percent, voters don't want Congress to block an increase in the nation's $16.7 trillion federal borrowing limit as a way to thwart implementation of the health- care law, which Obama signed into law in 2010 with a goal of insuring millions of Americans, known as "Obamacare."
A majority of the public, 58 percent, is opposed to cutting off funding for the insurance program that began enrollment Tuesday. Thirty-four percent support defunding it.
The Quinnipiac poll was conducted Sept. 23-29 of 1,497 registered voters and had a sampling margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.