WASHINGTON (AP) - Congress plunged the nation into a partial government shutdown today 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. Obama readied a midday statement to the nation as Democrats and Republicans maintained their blame-each-other duel on Capitol Hill.
Even as Obama prepared to meet with citizens signing up for his health care program and then make a lunch-hour speech in the Rose Garden, the White House cut back to a skeletal staff. The U.S. Capitol canceled 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 programs and services - could last. The Senate early today rejected the House's call to form a negotiating committee to resolve the deadlock.