WASHINGTON â€” The partial U.S. government shutdown is forcing hundreds of thousands of federal workers to stay home, restricting or shuttering government services, and sparking protests calling for lawmakers to end the budget impasse.
With no spending plan for the fiscal year that began October 1, national parks closed, most investigators who probe outbreaks of food-borne illnesses stopped going to work, and the government quit issuing reports on the state of the economy.
The shutdown is set to begin its third week on Tuesday, with Americans seeing a personal impact with delays on things like getting home loans and income tax refunds.
The effects have sparked protests in big cities and small towns, including Sunday in Washington where a few hundred people at a rally called by the conservative Tea Party movement tore down barricades erected at closed monuments and memorials on the National Mall. They took some of the barricades to the White House along with signs critical of President Barack Obama.
Some government critics, including Tea Party supporters, charge the Obama administration ordered popular public sites closed in an effort to maximize the effects of the government shutdown for political gain.
Republican Congressman Ted Cruz is one of several conservatives who want reforms to Obama’s signature healthcare legislation before agreeing to a spending bill. He addressed the crowd at the National World War II memorial on the National Mall and questioned why it was being kept closed.
“Let me ask a simple question,” Cruz said, “Why is the federal government spending money to erect barricades to keep veterans out of this memorial?”
Protester Jim Weller expressed his displeasure with the closure.
“I’m here today to stand up for my rights,” he said. “My father was a World War II veteran, shot down in the Philippines in 1945, and for them to shut down this Memorial is absurd. He earned this.”
Demonstrators also went to the U.S. Capitol to voice their criticism of Congress, which has repeatedly failed to agree on a budget and relied on so-called continuing resolutions to fund the government for several years.
Big cities, small towns upset
At Valley Forge National Historic Park near Philadelphia, a group of runners turned out Sunday to protest park closures and fines that have been levied against those caught running on the grounds since the shutdown went into effect.
Earlier protests brought out federal workers in cities like Chicago, Boston and Atlanta, and union members and citizens in Plano, Texas; Newton, New Jersey and Springettsbury, Pennsylvania.
More demonstrations are planned for this week. Religious leaders and furloughed workers plan to visit lawmakers’ offices Tuesday in Washington.
At least one American is not waiting for lawmakers to act. The shutdown has kept groundskeepers from working on the National Mall, but a South Carolina man showed up last week and began mowing grass, raking leaves and picking up trash around the grounds that hold many monuments and memorials.
His actions have inspired others to join his civic-minded mission to maintain the sites as the federal shutdown drags on. With volunteers working around him Saturday, Cox downplayed his role while speaking about the symbolic significance of the sites.
“People think I’m enjoying all this attention,” Cox told The Washington Post. “I’m going to enjoy the attention of the government getting and fixing its problems and coming together and representing us.”