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U.S. Government Starts Partial Shutdown

U.S.Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid awaits the countdown to midnight when the government was to shut down.
The U.S. government has begun to shut down many agencies following the failure by Congress to agree on a temporary budget bill to fund operations.

Shortly before midnight on September 30, the White House budget office directed federal agencies to start an orderly shutdown.

It is the first time in 17 years the U.S. federal government has been forced to shut down because of the failure of Congress to agree on a budget bill.

U.S. troops will remain on duty and other vital services needed for national security, mail delivery, air-traffic control, border patrols, and law enforcement will not be affected by the shutdown.

But as of October 1, the start of the new fiscal year, many nonessential services are to be at least temporarily closed and hundreds of thousands of workers told to stay home.

National parks, museums, and monuments, including landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty, will be closed.

It is unclear how long the shutdown might last. Any prolonged closure could impact the U.S. and world economies and disrupt the lives of federal workers who will not be getting paid.

The deadlock among lawmakers concerns measures demanded by opposition Republicans that would restrict President Barack Obama’s sweeping health-care reform law, known as Obamacare.

Republican members of the House of Representatives inserted such language into the House’s budget bill, leading to the bill’s rejection by the Senate, which is controlled by members of Obama’s Democratic Party.

Members of the Senate and House of Representatives are expected to continue talks on possible new legislation.

Global stock markets fell sharply on September 30 amid concerns that no deal would be reached.

In a message to U.S. troops released as the deadline passed, Obama said he had signed a law to ensure that U.S. soldiers will get paid on time. Obama said U.S. operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere will continue.

Hours before the the deadline, Obama warned of the effects of a shutdown. He told reporters at the White House that a shutdown would "have a very real economic impact on real people, right away. Past shutdowns have disrupted the economy significantly. This one would, too.”

Obama noted that the health-care law, formally called the Affordable Care Act, will go into effect on October 1 as planned and that lawmakers would not be able to block its implementation.

Obama called the crisis "entirely preventable" and urged the House of Representatives to support a basic funding measure that doesn’t make what he called "extraneous and controversial demands."

The health-care law is intended to provide coverage for millions of Americans who don’t now have insurance.

Republican Party opponents of the president, mostly from the antitax Tea Party faction, want to get rid of the law, viewing it as a threat to the economy and a destroyer of jobs. They also argue that it curtails individual freedoms by requiring most Americans to have insurance.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, and AFP
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