Congress plunged the nation into a partial government shutdown yesterday as a protracted dispute over President Barack Obama's signature health- care law reached a boiling point, forcing some 800,000 federal workers off the job.
Even as Obama prepared to meet with citizens signing up for his health-care programme and then make a lunch-hour speech yesterday, in the Rose Garden, the White House cut back to a skeletal staff. Democrats and Republicans maintained a blame-each-other duel on Capitol Hill.
The United States Capitol cancelled tours not personally led by Congress members. 'Closed' signs and barricades sprang up at the Lincoln Memorial, and national parks and federal workplaces across the country were following suit.
With the Republican-controlled House and Democratic-controlled Senate stalemated, it was unclear how long the shutdown, and the loss of some government programmes and services, could last.
Obama communications director Jennifer Palmieri said the White House was open to changes in the health-care law in future negotiations, but not as part of passing a budget bill.