IRS tax audits would be halted in their tracks, this weekend’s National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade in Washington canceled, and national parks and the Smithsonian shuttered if Congress can’t reach agreement on annual spending and the government shuts down at midnight Friday.
The military, federal law enforcement and other key officials would still be at work, earning pay - except their paychecks would be halted until the government funding stream is turned back on.
Negotiations on Capitol Hill continued Wednesday, and House Republicans readied a bill to extend the shutdown deadline by another week. Democrats, however, gave no signal they would accept the stopgap measure, arguing a final spending-cuts deal is there for the taking if the GOP would relent.
Late Wednesday night President Obama called House Speaker John A. Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to the White House for more than an hour of talks, and afterwards said a deal should be in reach if both sides are willing.
“What they did was narrow the issues and clarify the issues that are still outstanding,” Mr. Obama told reporters afterward. “I remain confident that if we’re serious about getting something done, we should be able to complete a deal and get it passed and avert a shutdown.”
Mr. Boehner, speaking just after the president, said neither side wants a shutdown, but agreed there had been some slow movement.
“We do have some honest differences, but I do think we made some progress. But i want to reiterate, there’s no agreement on a number and there’s no agreement on policy riders,” he said.
One senior administration official said a shutdown would delay Federal Housing Administration home-loan guarantees and close national parks, while the National Institutes of Health would have to stop admitting new patients or beginning new clinical trials.
The official also said it would halt Internal Revenue Service operations that aren’t automated, including processing paper tax returns and doing tax audits - a prospect some Internet bloggers didn’t find disagreeable.
The White House, though, said people should take a shutdown seriously.
“Some of you may not be that sympathetic. You may say, well, you know, let it shut down. What do I care?” Mr. Obama said at a town hall in Pennsylvania. “But here’s the thing. When government shuts down, it means that a small-business owner who’s waiting to get a loan, suddenly nobody’s there to process it.”
In the District, the seat of the federal government, the city’s authority to spend its own money would expire Friday at midnight, and trash collections and parking-ticket writing would be halted. But police and firefighters still would report for duty, and schools would remain open.
Mayor Vincent C. Gray said that no other U.S. city has to think about the implications of a shutdown.
“If there ever was an illustration of why we need budget autonomy, this is it,” he said.
Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District’s nonvoting congressional delegate, said the Republican-controlled House has rejected her proposals that would permit the District to spend its local funds for the remainder of fiscal 2011.