There were no apologies as members of Congress missed a long-anticipated deadline to fund the federal government for the first time in 17 years on Tuesday morning—only finger-pointing, rehashed talking points and silence.
No official comments were offered by Chattanooga-area lawmakers after the clock struck 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, signaling the beginning of the first federal shutdown since 1996. Because of Congress' inability to broker a deal surrounding a government funding bill, approximately 800,000 federal workers will be furloughed, and more than a million others will be asked to continue working their jobs without pay, according to a New York Times report.
The impasse came as a result of efforts by House Republicans to strip the continuing resolution of funds marked for implementation of the Affordable Care Act. But with a Democratic-controlled Senate, veto threats from the White House and the opening of federal health exchanges Tuesday morning, efforts to significantly delay the law through threat of a shutdown came up short.
Still, Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, who has supported multiple versions of House legislation geared at defunded or delayed aspects of Obamacare in recent weeks, laid blame for the crisis solely at the feet of Senate Democrats.
"The House has been willing to work toward a solution, and we have now provided three different options to the obstructionist Senate," Fleischmann said in a news release issued by his office three hours before the deadline expired. "Each time, though, Senate Democrats have simply buried their heads in the sand rather than doing the job they were elected to do."
Fleischmann's colleague, Rep. Scott DesJarlais, offered no official comment in the hours leading up to the shutdown or shortly after the deadline passed.
Sen. Lamar Alexander, who is up for re-election next year, used the shutdown as an opportunity to once more state his longtime opposition to the health law, releasing a statement six hours before Tuesday's 12:01 a.m. deadline.
"I've spent the last three years fighting Obamacare," he said in a statement that included similar talking points relayed in recent weeks. "I'm not in the shut-down-the-government crowd; I'm in the take-over-the-government crowd."
Alexander added that his support of a late measure to ensure that military personnel would continue to be paid was "a step toward reasonableness."
"We should make absolutely sure that the men and women of our military are paid on the day they are supposed to be paid and their spouses aren't waiting for the check," he said in remarks offered on the Senate floor Monday afternoon. "Let's not run the risk that a single soldier fighting in Afghanistan has a paycheck that is one day late and that the mortgage can't be paid."
Sen. Bob Corker offered no official comment on the shutdown.
According to a Washington Post report, senior Republicans in Congress have privately predicted the shutdown could last at least one week. It was announced late Monday night the Senate will reconvene at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.
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