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As second day of shutdown starts, no solution in sight

7:09 AM, Oct 2, 2013   |    comments
Photo by the Associated Press
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After the first full day of a government shutdown that featured photo-ops and a handful of strategic votes but no evidence of real negotiations, the funding lapse continued Wednesday with little clarity about how the congressional impasse may be solved.

The House GOP tried late Tuesday to fund some of the most popular items impacted by the shutdown, including the national park system and provisions for veterans.

But Democrats described the GOP's move as a "cynical" attempt to dodge public wrath about the full shutdown without letting up on demands to delay implantation of the new health-care law.

President Barack Obama promptly threatened to veto the piecemeal measures, with White House and Senate Democratic aides reiterating that the only acceptable solution to the shutdown is for the House to pass a "clean" funding bill.

"They are focusing on cherry picking the few parts of government they like," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said of the separate GOP funding items. "It's just another wacky idea from the Tea Party-driven Republicans."

Those separate funding bills, which required a two-thirds majority to pass, all failed in the House.

The back-and-forth came against a backdrop of outrage and annoyance from members of the public who were turned away from museums and attractions - to say nothing of furloughed federal workers nervous about their next payday.

One of the latest casualties of the shutdown: military commissaries that cater to the families of service members and veterans will reportedly be shuttered starting Wednesday.

Even the Capitol building appeared deserted in the midst of ongoing negotiations. Up to two-thirds of each office's staff is at home and they've been ordered to turn their government-issued BlackBerry devices off.

Both sides were quick to seize on the early consequences of the shutdown - from ruined vacations to suspended clinical trials at the National Institutes of Health - as evidence that the other party should stand down.

When an "Honor Flight" of World War II veterans appeared to be blocked from visiting the memorial in their honor on the National Mall, members of Congress rushed to the scene to cheer them on as they bypassed the gates.

After the White House announced that it would veto the GOP's piecemeal funding measures, Republicans berated Obama for denying the veterans access to the site.

"This is insane. House Democrats just killed a bill to allow elderly, disabled WW2 vets to visit the WW2 Memorial. Democrats are on a rampage," tweeted House Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas.

Earlier Tuesday, House Republican "conferees" - negotiators appointed to hash out difference between the House and Senate budget bulls - sat on one side of a conference table, gesturing at other empty chairs as cameras snapped.

"We sit ready to negotiate with the Senate." Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., tweeted, along with the photo.

The Senate rejected the "conference" negotiations first thing Tuesday morning after Democrats painted it as little more than an eleventh-hour publicity stunt.

"We will not go to conference with a gun to our head," Reid said on the Senate floor.

And Obama, appearing in the Rose Garden, continued to demand that Republicans pass a government funding bill free of amendments meant to gut Obamacare.

"This is only going to happen when Republicans realize they don't get to hold the economy hostage over ideological demands," Obama said, as White House-described beneficiaries of the new health-care law looked on. "It's all about rolling back the Affordable Care Act. This, more than anything else, seems to be what the Republican Party stands for these days."

Republicans, in turn, pointed to problems with the unveiling of new implementation tools for the health-care law, which went forward despite the government shutdown.

The new HealthCare.Gov website crashed early Tuesday morning, prompting ridicule and concerns from Republicans who oppose the law and say must be delayed.

"These 'glitches,' which the president is trying to brush off, reveal how totally unprepared the government is for this launch even with three and a half years to prepare," said House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chair Darrell Issa, R-Calif.

Obama said the slowness was due to higher-than-estimated interest in the new websites and argued that critics were judging the new program unfairly.

"A couple of weeks ago, Apple rolled out a new operating system, and within a few days they found a glitch and fixed it," he said. "I don't remember anybody suggesting Apple should stop selling iPhones or iPads -- or threatening to shut down the company if they didn't. That's not we do things in America. We don't actually root for failure."

Still, the error messages and slow Web traffic were drowned out by debate about the budget standoff, which shows no signs of abating. This as one estimate put the cost of the shutdown at $12.5 million an hour.

The White House appears confident that the battle will continue at least past Wednesday. The president is slated to visit a Maryland construction company Thursday to highlight the effects of the shutdown.

NBC News

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