BY ANDREW TAYLOR, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
WASHINGTON — Congress hung "Closed" signs on a big swath of the government Tuesday and sent home 800,000 workers in what President Barack Obama labeled an "ideological crusade" by GOP lawmakers determined to gut his health care law. On Capitol Hill, House Republicans answered with a bid to restart a few favored slices of government, including national parks, while still demanding concessions on health care.
Parks and monuments were the most visible casualty on the first day of the first partial government shutdown in more than a decade.
In Washington, barricades sprang up at the Lincoln Memorial and other monuments, and the National Park Service was turning off 45 fountains around the capital. National parks from Acadia in Maine to Denali in Alaska followed suit, as did many federal workplaces.
Agencies like NASA and the Environmental Protection Agency were virtually shuttered.
But people classified as essential government employees – such as air traffic controllers, Border Patrol agents and most food inspectors – continued to work. So did members of the military and employees whose jobs are financed through fees, such as State Department workers who issue passports and visas.
With the Republican-controlled House and Democratic-controlled Senate at stalemate, it was unclear how long the shutdown would last, or whom the public would blame for unanswered phones and locked doors.
Obama immediately labeled it a "Republican shutdown." He said by closing much of government an out-of-control faction of House Republicans was putting the nation's fragile recovery at risk of an "economic shutdown."
"They've shut down the government over an ideological crusade to deny affordable health care to millions of Americans," Obama said in a Rose Garden speech, surrounded by people he said were dependent on the new health law.
He called on lawmakers to pass a budget and end the shutdown, saying, "We're better than this."
On Capitol Hill, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., portrayed the situation as the fault of stubborn Democratic senators who refuse to consider the House's proposals for delaying "Obamacare."
"None of us want to be in a shutdown," Cantor, R-Va., told reporters. "And we're here to say to the Senate Democrats, `come and talk to us."
House Republicans were trying a new strategy Tuesday, planning votes to reopen parts of the government. That includes opening parks and resuming speedier processing for claims for veterans benefits, and allowing the District of Columbia to collect garbage and pay for other city services with its own tax money. That was swiftly rejected by White House spokesman Jay Carney as "not a serious approach."
Meanwhile, the health care law itself remained unaffected Tuesday as enrollment opened for millions of people shopping for medical insurance.
Whether students shut out of Smithsonian museums or homebuyers wanting government-backed loans, some Americans already were filling the pinch and the effects were expected to spread.
More than a third of the federal civilian workforce was furloughed – equivalent to the combined workforce of Target, General Motors, Exxon and Google – and many do jobs that private businesses rely on.
"There has to be better ways to run the government than to get to a standstill like this," said Cheryl Strahl, who traveled from Atascadero, Calif., to take in New York City sites. She found the Statue of Liberty closed, despite its famous words of welcome.
"Why take it out on the parks?" Strahl asked. Many parks are too vast or wide-open to effectively close. A group of veterans who traveled to Washington to see the World War II memorial Tuesday made their way past barriers and police tape and onto its sweeping plaza.
The Senate early Tuesday rejected the House's call to form a negotiating committee to resolve the deadlock over health care and financing the government.
Moments after the vote, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., laid full blame on House Republicans, declaring, "The government is closed because of the irrationality of what's going on on the other side of the Capitol."
But Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said GOP lawmakers were listening to constituents who want to "stop the runaway train called the federal government." Their message, he said, is "Stay strong."
In the House, conservative Rep. Marsha Blackburn predicted the standoff might drag on for days if Obama and Senate Democrats refused to bargain. "People are going to realize they can live with a lot less government," Blackburn, R-Tenn., told Fox News.
Another Republican, Rep. Scott Rigell of Virginia, whose Norfolk-area district includes tens of thousands of military members and their families, tweeted "We fought the good fight. Time for a clean CR" – referring to a continuing resolution that would reopen the government without addressing health care.
It was the first shutdown since a budget battle between Republicans in Congress and Democratic President Bill Clinton in the winter of 1995-1996.
Congress itself was affected. Some staffers were furloughed and hearings were postponed. The U.S. Capitol canceled tours not personally led by lawmakers. Democratic Sen. Tom Carper sent an email to his Delaware constituents telling them not to expect responses to their emails and phone calls.
Lawmakers and the president were still getting paid, however, at a rate totaling more than $250,000 per day. Most of the nation's 2.1 million civilian federal workers were either working with their pay suspended or on unpaid furlough.
The Supreme Court operated as usual, even welcoming tour groups, but was at risk of running low on money if the shutdown lingers beyond Friday.
Tourists were left with few other government options. The Smithsonian website displayed a red banner noting that "all Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo are closed." On the zoo's website, panda mom Mei Xiang could be seen snuggling with her weeks-old cub through the morning, until the feed was abruptly cut off around 8 a.m. Care of the animals will continue behind the scenes.
The White House was operating with a skeletal staff. A groundskeeper working outside Tuesday morning at daybreak said he was doing the job normally handled by four workers.
Given the shutdown, White House officials were discussing whether Obama should change plans for a trip to Asia scheduled to begin Saturday.
The military will be paid under legislation freshly signed by Obama, but paychecks for other federal workers will be withheld until the impasse is broken. Federal workers were told to report to their jobs for a half-day but to perform only shutdown tasks like changing email greetings and closing down agencies' Internet sites.
The self-funded Postal Service will continue to operate and the government will continue to pay Social Security benefits and Medicare and Medicaid fees to doctors on time.
The Senate twice on Monday rejected House-passed bills that first sought to delay key portions of the 2010 "Obamacare" law, then to delay the law's requirement that millions of people buy medical insurance. As the standoff continued, some Republicans voiced nervousness.
Republican Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma called the shutdown "a big mistake." Interviewed on MSNBC, Cole called on House and Senate negotiations to end the impasse.
The spending bill at the center of the fight would fund the government only through Nov. 15 if the Senate gets its way or until Dec. 15 if the House does – and even an agreement to reopen government temporarily might do little to fix the underlying standoff.
Associated Press writers Connie Cass, Donna Cassata, Alan Fram, Nedra Pickler and Seth Borenstein contributed to this report.
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President Barack Obama pauses while speaking in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, about the government shutdown. Congress plunged the nation into a partial government shutdown Tuesday as a protracted dispute over Obama's signature health care law reached a boiling point, forcing some 800,000 federal workers off the job. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (2ndR), speaks while flanked by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) (R), Sen. John Thune (R-SD) (2nd-L) and Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) (L) after the Senate Republican policy luncheon, on Capitol Hill, October 1, 2013 in Washington D.C. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., left, looks on as Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, pauses during a news conference on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013 in Washington. Congress was unable to reach a midnight deadline to keep the government funded, triggering the first government shutdown in more than 17 years. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
A protester covers his mouth with a dollar bill as he joins others in a demonstration in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on October 1, 2013 urging congress to pass the budget bill. (JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
A US Park Police officer watches at left as a National Park Service employee posts a sign on a barricade closing access to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel listens on speaker phone during a conversation with Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and other senior Defense Department officials about the U.S. government shutdown, at his hotel in Seoul, South Korea on Tuesday Oct. 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)
A notice advising visitors that the American Cemetery is closed due to the partial shutdown of the U.S. federal government hangs from the gates of the cemetery in Suresnes, west of Paris, Tuesday Oct. 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere)
President Barack Obama
U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks about the launch of the Affordable Care Act's health insurance marketplaces and the first federal government shutdown in 17 years as he's joined by U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (R) and Americans who will benefit from the Affordable Care Act in the Rose Garden of the White House October 1, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Park Ranger Scott Rolfes locks a gate closing a road over the dam at Saylorville Lake, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, in Saylorville, Iowa. About 800,000 federal workers are being forced off the job in the first government shutdown in 17 years, suspending most nonessential federal programs and services. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
MLK Jr. Monument
A U.S. Park Service worker hammers a iron stake into the ground to install a fence around the Martin Luther King Monument in Washington, D.C., October 1, 2013, as the first U.S. Federal government shutdown since 1995 begins. (PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
Fay Wagstaff, right, and her mother Fernanda Wagstaff of El Paso, Texas., sit outside the closed Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Everglades National Park
Park Ranger Christine MacKarvich mans the Shark Valley entrance booth in Everglades National Park, early Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013. She was told to report to work but had been warned that a call from the park service would shut the park down. The partial government shutdown that began Tuesday left many federal workers uncertain of their financial future, with many facing unpaid furloughs or delays in paychecks. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas)
U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) (R) talks to a military veteran at the World War II Memorial during a government shutdown October 1, 2013 in Washington, D.C. The memorial was temporary opened to veteran groups arrived on Honor Flights on a day trip to visit the nation's capital. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough listens to President Barack Obama deliver remarks about the launch of the Affordable Care Act's health insurance marketplaces and the first federal government shutdown in 17 years in the Rose Garden of the White House October 1, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Visitors to Independence National Historical Park are reflected in the window of the closed building housing the Liberty Bell, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Statue Of Liberty
A park ranger, who declined to give his name, reads a sign announcing the closing of the Statue of Liberty, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
A U.S. Park Police officer ties police tape to a hand rail closing access to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Statue Of Liberty
A tour operator uses a megaphone to announce that the Statue of Liberty is closed due to a government shutdown, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013 in New York. The shutdown, the first since the winter of 1995-96, closed national parks across the nation. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
A government employee steps out of an opening in a door at Castle Clinton National Monument in lower Manhattan, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013 in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
Statue Of Liberty
People look at a sign for informing that the Statue of Liberty is closed due to the government shutdown in Battery Park on October 1, 2013 in New York City. Federal museums and parks across the nation are closed starting today due to a government shutdown for the first time in nearly two decades. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial
US Park Rangers place barricades in front of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, DC, October 1, 2013, as all National Parks closed due to a US government shutdown. (JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
National Gallery Of Art
A group of art students take up the staircase of the National Art Gallery as it is closed due to Federal government shutdown in Washington, DC, on October 1, 2013. (JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
Clinton Presidential Library
Visitors walk from the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Ark., after being informed that the building is closed Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013 because of the government shutdown. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)
Ebenezer Baptist Church
A man walks past a sign on the doors of historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta notifying visitors that the church is closed because of the government shutdown, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
World War II Memorial
A US military war veteran visits the World War II Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, DC, on October 1, 2013. The US Park Service opened the area to the veterans who are brought to Washington to visit and reflect at their memorials. (KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)
World War II Memorial
U.S. military war veteran takes photos at the World War II Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on October 1, 2013. The U.S. Park Service opened the area to the veterans who are brought to Washington to visit and reflect at their memorials. (KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.)
US Rep. Michelle Bachmann (L),R-MN, greets a US military war veteran as he arrives to visit the World War II Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, DC, on October 1, 2013. The US Park Service opened the area to the veterans who are brought to Washington to visit and reflect at their memorials. (KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)
World War II Memorial
A closure sign is seen as US military war veterans visit the World War II Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, DC, on October 1, 2013. The US Park Service opened the area to the veterans who are brought to Washington to visit and reflect at their memorials. (KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)
Republicans Address The Media
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 01: U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) (L), U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) (C) and U.S. Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) (R) speak to the media during a news conference on Capitol Hill, October 1, 2013 in Washington D.C. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial
U.S. Park Police Officers yell at a biker while closing the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall October 1, 2013 in Washington, D.C. The U.S. government is in a forced shutdown after lawmakers failed to pass a spending bill last night. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
A U.S. National Parks Service sign is seen on a fence near the Mall in Washington, D.C., on October 1, 2013. The U.S. government shut down Tuesday for the first time in 17 years after a gridlocked Congress failed to reach a federal budget deal amid bitter brinkmanship.(KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)
World War II Memorial
Temporary fencing around the World War II Memorial prevents people from entering the monument on the National Mall October 1, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
A U.S. Park Police Officer stands in front of the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on October 1, 2013. The U.S. lurched into a dreaded government shutdown today for the first time in 17 years, after Congress failed to end a bitter budget row after hours of dizzying brinkmanship. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman views the Jefferson Memorial from behind barricades in Washington, D.C., on October 1, 2013. (KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)
An employee at Z-Burger in Washington, DC, prepares food during the lunch hour rush October 1, 2013. The fast-food chain is promising free hamburgers to federal workers who find themselves furloughed after the US government shutsdown Tuesday, its founder and proprietor Peter Tabibian said. (JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
White House Visitor Center
U.S. National Park Service employee Neil Hewett places a closure sign at the White House Visitor Center in Washington, D.C., on October 1, 2013. (KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)
Tourists ride bicycles down the National Mall in Washington, D.C., October 1, 2013, as the first U.S. Federal government shutdown since 1995 begins. The U.S. Park Police have closed off the mall to vehicle and pedestrian traffic due to the U.S. Government partial shutdown. A spokesperson for the U.S. National Park Service said it is technically illegal to use the mall. (PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
Johnson Space Center
Cars pass by NASA's Johnson Space Center Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
World War II Memorial
Korean War veteran Robert Olson, from Iowa, is pushed in his wheelchair by Zach Twedt, also from Iowa, around the National World War II Memorial in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Lake Mead National Recreation Area
Lake Mead National Recreation Area park maintenance worker Donna Curry locks up a restroom facility at a picnic area inside the park,Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, near Boulder City, Nev. A partial government shutdown, caused by a budget impasse in Congress, has forced the closure of public sites including the nation's national parks. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
A barrier blocks the path along the Tidal Basin in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, that leads to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial which is closed. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
National Zoological Park Police Officer Will Jones directs visitor Miguel Miranda and his family of Mexico at the entrance of the Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, as the zoo is closed due to the government shutdown. Miranda was advised to turn around. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
The U.S. Capitol is seen behind an area closed for restoration sign on the National Mall in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013. (AP Photo/J. David Ake)
The White House is seen behind a stop sign in Washington, DC, on October 1, 2013. The U.S. government shut down Tuesday for the first time in 17 years after a gridlocked Congress failed to reach a federal budget deal amid bitter brinkmanship. (KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)
The Washington Monument is seen behind a chain fence in Washington, DC, on October 1, 2013. (AREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)
A rickshaw (pedicab) puller, who's main business is to transport tourists from one attraction to another in the capital, takes a nap near the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on October 1, 2013 during the first day of the federal government shutdown. (JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
The Morning Papers
A woman buys a copy of the New York Daily News, featuring Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John Boehner following, an U.S. government shutdown in New York, October 1, 2013. (EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)
A cyclist reads a sign announcing the closure of a Park Service facility at Crissy Field due to the partial government shutdown on October 1, 2013 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
A visitor takes a picture of a sign announcing the closure of the Fort Point National Historic Site due to the partial government shutdown on October 1, 2013 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev., left, and Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa listens to remarks by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif., as they celebrate the start of the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, during an event with other lawmakers and people whose lives have been impacted by lack of health insurance, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Blue Ridge Parkway Folk Art Center
Resa Mestel, of New York, reacts after finding the Folk Art Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Asheville, N.C., closed due to the government shutdown Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)