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NEW YORK (AP) — From New York's Liberty Island to Alaska's Denali National Park, the U.S. government closed its doors as a bitter budget fight idled hundreds of thousands of federal workers and halted all but the most critical government services for the first time in nearly two decades.

 

A midnight deadline to avert a shutdown passed amid Congressional bickering, casting in doubt Americans' ability to get government services ranging from federally-backed home loans to supplemental food assistance for children and pregnant women.

 

For many employees of the federal government, Tuesday's shutdown meant no more paychecks as they were forced onto unpaid furloughs. For those still working, it meant delays in getting paid.

 

Park Ranger and father-to-be Darquez Smith said he already lives paycheck-to-paycheck while putting himself through college.

 

"I've got a lot on my plate right now — tuition, my daughter, bills," said Smith, 23, a ranger at Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park in Ohio. "I'm just confused and waiting just like everyone else."

 

The impact of the shutdown was mixed — immediate and far-reaching for some, annoying but minimal for others.

 

In Colorado, where flooding killed eight people earlier this month, emergency funds to help rebuild homes and businesses continued to flow — but federal worker furloughs were expected to slow it down.

 

National Guard soldiers rebuilding washed-out roads would apparently be paid on time — along with the rest of the country's active-duty personnel — under a bill passed hours before the shutdown. Existing Social Security and Medicare benefits, veterans' services and mail delivery were also unaffected.

 

Other agencies were harder hit — nearly 3,000 Federal Aviation Administration safety inspectors were furloughed along with most of the National Transportation Safety Board's employees, including accident investigators who respond to air crashes, train collisions, pipeline explosions and other accidents.

 

Almost all of NASA shut down, except for Mission Control in Houston, and national parks closed along with the Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo. Even the zoo's popular panda cam went dark, shut off for the first time since a cub was born there Aug. 23.

 

As the shutdown loomed Monday, visitors to popular parks made their frustration with elected officials clear.

 

"There is no good thing going to come out of it," said Chris Fahl, a tourist from Roanoke, Ind., visiting the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Park in Hodgenville, Ky. "Taxpayers are just going to be more overburdened."

 

Emily Enfinger, visiting the Statue of Liberty, said politicians need to find a way to work together.

 

"They should be willing to compromise, both sides, and it discourages me that they don't seem to be able to do that," she said. "They're not doing their job as far as I'm concerned."

 

Joe Wentz, a retired federal employee from Lebanon, Va., visiting San Francisco with his wife, bought tickets to visit Alcatraz on Thursday — if it's open.

 

Wentz said he's frustrated that some politicians are using the budget to push changes in the Affordable Care Act.

 

"We've been disgusted a long time that they're not working together," he said.

 

The shutdown was strangely captivating to Marlena Knight, an Australian native visiting Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia. She was confounded that the impasse focused on the nation's health care system — an indispensable service in her home country.

 

"We can't imagine not having a national health system," she said. "I just can't believe that this country can shut down over something like a national health system. Totally bizarre, as an Australian, but fascinating."

 

It turns out an institution as massive as the federal government takes some time to grind to a total halt: Many federal workers were being permitted to come in Tuesday to change voicemail messages or fill out time cards. But after that, they were under strict orders to do no work, even check their email.

 

With no telling how long the budget standoff will last, even programs not immediately affected could run out of cash.

 

Barbara Haxton, executive director of the Ohio Head Start Association, said its preschool learning programs would be in jeopardy if a shutdown lasted more than two weeks. March's automatic budget cuts meant nearly 3,000 children lost access to services and there could be dire consequences if the budget standoff drags on.

 

"It's not as though this is a throwaway service. These are the poorest of the poor children," Haxton said. "And our Congressman still gets his paycheck. His pay doesn't stop and his health insurance doesn't stop."

 

___

 

Associated Press reporters Kathy Matheson in Philadelphia, Joan Lowy in Washington, D.C., Dylan Lovan in Louisville, Ky., Terence Chea in San Francisco and Amanda Lee Myers in Cincinnati contributed to this report.

Published in National News

   COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Former U.S. Rep. Charlie Wilson, a Democrat who represented eastern Ohio in Washington for two terms after winning a write-in campaign, died Sunday in a Florida hospital, the Ohio Democratic Party announced. He was 70.

   Wilson had suffered a stroke in February while vacationing with his family and was recovering at a rehabilitation center, Democratic Party officials said. He fell ill Saturday night and was admitted to a hospital in Boynton Beach, where he died at about 2:30 p.m. Sunday with his family by his side, the officials said.

   Wilson spent 14 years in Columbus and Washington championing for the people of eastern and southeastern Ohio. He secured federal funding for police departments, airport improvements and small business incubators, among other project.

   Before being elected to Congress, Wilson served in the Ohio House of Representatives from 1997 to 2005. He then served two years in the Ohio Senate.

   "I served with Charlie in the State Legislature for six years and he was a loyal friend in good times and bad," Ohio Democratic Chairman Chris Redfern said in a statement. "An outspoken advocate for working people, Charlie never wavered in his service to his constituents or his lifelong pursuit to help improve the lives of others."

   Wilson won his first congressional campaign in 2006 as a write-in candidate, filling the seat vacated by Gov. Ted Strickland. He had failed to gather enough petition signatures to qualify for the state's primary, requiring him to run as a write-in for the 6th Congressional District stretching from Youngstown's southern suburbs to the tip of the Ohio River near Portsmouth.

   Wilson, who represented a coal-heavy district, served on the House Committee on Science and Technology.

   He lost bids for Congress in 2010 and 2012.

   U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, who defeated Wilson in 2012, said he was saddened to hear of his death and expressed condolences to his family.

   "Although Charlie and I were political opponents, we were never enemies. He served with honor in the Ohio state legislature and in Congress," Johnson said in a statement.

   Before entering public service, Wilson was owner of several small businesses throughout the Ohio Valley. He attended Ohio University in Athens and while still in college, worked as a UAW member on the assembly line at the Ford Automotive auto plant in Lorain.

   Wilson is survived by four sons, one of whom served as his campaign manager in the 2006 race and went on to succeed him in the Ohio Senate.

   "Throughout his extraordinary life, Congressman Wilson was motivated by a desire to serve his country and a passion for the causes most important to the constituents of Southeast and East Ohio," his family said in a statement. "Congressman Wilson served with honor, dignity and an unwavering sense of civic responsibility to the families of our region. Charlie will be remembered for his boundless energy, his honest approach, and his dedication to improving the lives of our future generations."

   Funeral arrangements were incomplete.

Published in National News
The Associated Press compared how the budget proposals by Senate Democrats and House Republicans stack up over the next decade:

___

Total spending

Senate Democrats: $46.5 trillion
House Republicans: $41.7 trillion

___

Total revenue

Senate Democrats: $41.2 trillion
House Republicans: $40.2 trillion

___

10-year deficit

Senate Democrats: $5.4 trillion
House Republicans: $1.4 trillion

___

National debt at end of 2023

Senate Democrats: $24.4 trillion
House Republicans: $20.3 trillion

___

Social Security

Senate Democrats: $11.3 trillion
House Republicans: $11.3 trillion

___

Medicare

Senate Democrats: $6.8 trillion
House Republicans: $6.7 trillion

___

Health, including Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program

Senate Democrats: $6.6 trillion
House Republicans: $4.0 trillion

___

National defense

Senate Democrats: $6.0 trillion
House Republicans: $6.2 trillion

___

Income security, including housing assistance, cash benefits and food stamps

Senate Democrats: $5.6 trillion
House Republicans: $5.0 trillion

___

Interest on national debt

Senate Democrats: $5.2 trillion
House Republicans: $4.5 trillion

___

Veterans benefits and services

Senate Democrats: $1.7 trillion
House Republicans: $1.7 trillion

___

International Affairs, including foreign aid

Senate Democrats: $506 billion
House Republicans: $431 billion

___

Education, training, employment and social services

Senate Democrats: $1.1 trillion
House Republicans: $906 billion

___

Transportation

Senate Democrats: $919 billion
House Republicans: $801 billion

___

Agriculture

Senate Democrats: $205 billion House Republicans: $196 billion

___

Natural resources and environment

Senate Democrats: $474 billion
House Republicans: $385 billion

___

Community and regional development

Senate Democrats: $268 billion
House Republicans: $88 billion

___

Sources: Senate Democratic and House Republican budget proposals.
Published in National News

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