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Image: A jogger runs by as night falls on the U.S. Capitol on the eve of a potential government shutdown.

EPA

Shutdown begins as Congress remains deadlocked

With just over an hour till the midnight deadline of a government shutdown, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid  says that the Senate will not “go to conference until we get a clean CR’

A federal government shutdown officially began Tuesday morning as a deadlocked Congress failed to reach an agreement on a short-term funding measure by a 12:01 a.m. deadline.

Government officials told agencies to begin executing plans for a shutdown – the first in 17 years — shortly before midnight Monday.

In a memo to executive branch officers sent less than half an hour before the deadline, Office of Management and Budget director Sylvia Burwell said there was no “clear indication” that Congress would reach an agreement to keep the government’s lights on.

“Agencies should now execute plans for an orderly shutdown due to the absence of appropriations,” she wrote. “We urge Congress to act quickly to pass a Continuing Resolution to provide a short-term bridge that ensures sufficient time to pass a budget for the remainder of the fiscal year, and to restore the operation of critical public services and programs that will be impacted by a lapse in appropriations.”

“This is a sad day for America,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on the Senate floor.

The shutdown is expected to place tens of thousands of federal workers on furlough, close national parks and monuments, and disrupt services like food assistance and IRS audits.  Services like benefit payments and national security operations would go on as usual, and – because of a bipartisan measure passed by both houses of Congress and signed into law by the president late Monday – members of the military will continue to be paid.

As the clock ticked down to midnight, the House announced that it would try to shift decision-making to a bipartisan “conference” of lawmakers from both chambers, but Reid immediately rejected that plan.

“We will not go to conference with a gun to our head,” he said.

Due to the time needed for parliamentary procedure, it was clear that the House and Senate would not reach any agreement in time to avert the shutdown. The House was expected to be debating the conference request – and to again approve its already-rejected budget plan — until after 2 a.m. Tuesday. The Senate recessed until 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Less than an hour before the funding deadline, House Republicans were set to formally request a bicameral committee late Monday evening to hash out some middle ground between the Democratic Senate’s “clean” government funding bill and the GOP-led House’s proposal to delay a key part of Obamacare and nix health care subsidies for congressional staffers.

“It means we’re the reasonable, responsible actors trying to keep the process alive as the clock ticks past midnight, despite Washington Democrats’ refusal – thus far – to negotiate,” the GOP aide said.

After the plan was reported, Reid said the Senate wouldn’t “go to conference until we get a clean CR,” and accused Republicans of “playing games” at the eleventh hour.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., told reporters the conference plan was simply “a recipe for shutting down the government.”

All this comes after the Senate — for the second time Monday — rejected a House-passed measure that would have delayed a key provision of Obamacare while funding the government for an additional few weeks.

With just hours to go before the midnight deadline, the Senate swiftly nixed a House-passed government funding proposal late Monday, tossing the legislation back to the lower chamber with unusual speed as the nation careened towards a federal shutdown.

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