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Democrats, Republicans and the insane leap into the abyss

By Tom Foreman, CNN
updated 8:18 AM EDT, Wed October 2, 2013
The Statue of Liberty looms over visitors below on Liberty Island in New York Harbor on Sunday, October 13, 2013. The statue was closed to the public by the federal government's partial shutdown that began October 1, 2013, but reopened Sunday after the state of New York agreed to shoulder the costs of running the site during the shutdown. The Statue of Liberty looms over visitors below on Liberty Island in New York Harbor on Sunday, October 13, 2013. The statue was closed to the public by the federal government's partial shutdown that began October 1, 2013, but reopened Sunday after the state of New York agreed to shoulder the costs of running the site during the shutdown.
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Government shutdown of 2013
Government shutdown of 2013
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Government shutdown of 2013
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Government shutdown of 2013
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Government shutdown of 2013
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The government shutdown is already having real-world consequences
  • Engaged couples to federal employees are feeling the brunt
  • Even NASA has had its capabilities limited by the shutdown

Washington (CNN) -- When Genevieve Jeuck and Michael Sallemi came up with their romantic little idea, it seemed perfect.

They would get married in early October on the rim of the Grand Canyon, just as the cooling winds of autumn were starting to blow. With family and friends standing by, they would pledge their love to each other. Cue the rainbow, and the cry of the circling eagle.

Then their uncle showed up. Uncle Sam. And everything went to hell.

"Well, I've been going through a lot of emotions," Genevieve said after the government shutdown put the canyon off limits, and their plans on ice. "I cried. I was freaking out. I had to make all new plans."

She is not alone. About two dozen couples planned to tie the knot in National Parks over the next few days, and now they can't even pitch a pup tent. "We've been joking," Genevieve says, "that the government is going to put a tarp over (the canyon) so we can't see it."

Party politics fuel shutdown blame game

Arches National Park is one of 401 National Park Service sites to close to visitors during the government shutdown. Arches National Park is one of 401 National Park Service sites to close to visitors during the government shutdown.
Closed: Arches National Park
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Closed: National parks Closed: National parks
Furloughed employees turned away
Lawmakers get cash even if you don't

Stubborn Republicans or dogmatic Democrats

Listen to Democrats, and the government shutdown is a tale of recklessly stubborn Republicans driving the country into a chasm. Listen to Republicans, and it's a story of cleverly dogmatic Democrats who would rather see calamity than make a deal.

But listen to many voters and you'll hear a question: How is it possible that both parties have failed so badly in the relatively simple task of keeping the federal government open for business?

"If I don't perform at my job, then I don't get paid," Michael, the canyon-stranded groom says. "That should hold true for other people."

It is simple to measure the impact of the shutdown in numbers: more than 843,000 employees may be told to pack up their staplers and go home until they are called back; a billion dollars a week could be falling out of the economy as a result of the cut in federal spending.

Business lost, research halted: Impacts of the shutdown

An emotional rollercoaster

It is also easy to understand why furloughed federal workers are angry. After all, one of the perks of government employment has traditionally been stability. Not so much anymore.

Along the National Mall, a woman leaving her government office for what, at the moment, is an undetermined period of time looked disgusted. "We've been on an emotional rollercoaster for a while."

"If we were to go into a moderate government shutdown, I'd probably have to file for bankruptcy."
Rob Merritt, Defense worker

Defense worker Rob Merritt has already taken a hit to his income this year from the forced budget cuts, and he is struggling with unexpected medical bills. While he waits to see how long and severe the shutdown is, he fears for his family of six. "If we were to go into a moderate government shutdown, I'd probably have to file for bankruptcy."

"Federal workers have nothing to do with bringing about the government shutdown," says William Dougan. He's the head of the National Federation of Federal Employees and adds, "but they are the ones who are going to feel the impact of it the greatest."

But frustration is echoing among many other Americans, too; from cities, to the countryside, to the valleys of all those empty national parks.

Ridiculous closures

Part of it is the sheer ridiculousness of what has been caught in the financial and political vise.

At the National Zoo, there will be no more "panda cam" for those keeping track of those little black and white balls of fur. Also, in case you're counting, no tiger, orangutan, or clawed otter cams.

In orbit, American astronauts will apparently be just fine on the International Space Station, but we won't be able to spy on them through NASA TV.

It also appeared for a while that no one would be watching for asteroids hurtling toward the earth, then the space agency tweeted "To clarify: Many observatories...are watching the sky." That did not stop the galactic snarkiness from Benjamin Barnes, who tweeted right back, "But we're all still gonna die, right?"

And on the football field, Air Force may not play Navy this weekend as scheduled. Apparently the cost of travel is an issue, although perhaps they no longer have a coin to toss for the kickoff either.

Boehner learned hard lesson in failed House coup

Blocking vets

Within a short walk of both the Capitol and the White House, one scene captivated what is clearly maddening about the situation for all sorts of people.

"I don't get it. I'm furious."
Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa

A group of veterans from Mississippi, many in wheelchairs, came to Washington to see the World War II Memorial, only to find the open-air site fenced off. After some consternation, the fences were pushed aside. A bagpiper played, the vets went in, and guards just looked on while members of Congress on hand railed about the stupidity of the whole scene.

Democratic Senator Tom Harkin from Iowa: "I don't get it. I'm furious."

Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert from Texas: "We've got park service employees out here. Why wouldn't you have them here to allow the veterans in, instead of stand and keep them from coming in?"

Shutdown: Obama blames GOP 'ideological crusade'

Who's at fault?

To be sure, there is enough blame out there to choke a horse. Polls show the Republicans taking the worst of it, but Democrats and President Obama are also being hammered for their part in the debacle.

"Now we're at a point...what are we fighting for?
Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Virginia

By late afternoon, the growing tide of unrest seemed to be having some effect. Republican Congressman Scott Rigell from Virginia, while still opposing Obamacare, was telling CNN's Dana Bash he'd like to see a deal to make it all stop. "Now we're at a point...what are we fighting for? I don't think the continued shutdown helps our conservative agenda."

Indeed, few are arguing that this leap into the economic abyss will help anyone, except voters who might yet want more reasons to think badly of the whole D.C. crowd.

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