Visitors receive guidance at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington yesterday. The Smithsonian museums will close today if a deal is not struck by lawmakers.
WASHINGTON: With a shutdown of the US government hours away, Republicans and Democrats blamed each other Monday for a stand-off that has left hundreds of thousands of government workers on the brink of being sent home.
Lawmakers in the bitterly divided Congress had until midnight (0400 GMT) to pass a stopgap budget measure, but there was no sign of a breakthrough.
President Barack Obama has warned a freeze in non-essential federal spending could have catastrophic effects on the shaky economic recovery, and cost thousands of jobs.
But Congressional leaders have been unable to wrangle a compromise from feuding clans of lawmakers, arguing instead over who takes the blame for the first shutdown in 17 years.
House Speaker John Boehner took to the floor to defend Republican legislation that would defund Obama’s signature health care law — a non starter for Democratic-led Senate.
“This law is not ready for prime time. The House has done its work,” Boehner said.
“Senate decided not to work yesterday. Well my goodness, if there’s such an emergency, where are they?”
The Republican leadership gathered in Boehner’s office, but one congressman leaving the meeting said there was no path forward yet. If the deadline expires without a deal the failure will have a global impact. Oil prices slid and European and Asian shares fell, amid fears for the world’s largest economy.
And, at a local level, as the Washington day began staff at federal agencies were warned that their children would not be able to attend government daycare centres today. The National Zoo announced that it would close, and its popular livefeed of the first weeks of life of its baby panda would go offline.
Some members of the Congress tried to put a brave face on the impasse with 15 hours left to thrash out an improbable compromise. AFP