View to a shutdown: Washington without the government

By Doina Chiacu

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The lawmakers who shut down the U.S. government on Tuesday have the best view of the result from their perch in the U.S. Capitol: a two-mile stretch of museums, monuments and federal buildings along the National Mall that were closed for business.

With up to a million federal workers across the United States forced to stay home without pay, the impact of the shutdown was most concentrated in Washington, D.C., where the federal government is the No. 1 job provider.

Tourists had little reason to get up early. The Smithsonian museums lining the Mall - a top destination for visitors to the capital - were shuttered.

Outside the hugely popular National Air and Space Museum, a sign read: "All Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo are closed today due to the government shutdown. We apologize for the inconvenience."

The zoo's animal webcams went dark, even the beloved "panda cam," depriving fans of the giant panda baby born in August from monitoring its progress.

"All the animals will continue to be fed and cared for," the National Zoological Park reassured the public on its website.

Barricades sealed off the Lincoln Memorial, where the giant statue of President Abraham Lincoln stares out through white marble columns up the hill toward the U.S. Capitol.

The memorial's broad steps, from which civil rights hero Martin Luther King made his "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963, were marked off by tape reading "Police line do not cross."

Park Service spokesman Mike Litterst said the other sites on the Mall, including the World War II Memorial, were being sealed off.

It was the federal government's first partial shutdown in 17 years. Government agencies were directed to cut back services after lawmakers could not break a political stalemate to continue operations.

The Washington Post front page banner headline proclaimed "SHUTDOWN: Congress stuck in funding stalemate."

In New York, they were less polite. The Daily News front page headline read "House of Turds," with a picture of House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner sitting in Lincoln's chair on the Lincoln Memorial. The subhead read, "United we suffer as cess-pols play liar's poker with gov't shutdown."


The capital city of 600,000 residents, with a metropolitan area of nearly 6 million, was by no means a ghost town. Washington city government was running, as was public transport, and the notorious morning traffic jams appeared to be as bad as ever.

While some government operations were halted, spending for essential functions related to national security and public safety continued, including pay for U.S. military troops.

At Congress, U.S. Capitol Police were on duty at the entrances, some grumbling - off the record - that although they had to be there as designated "essential personnel," they were not being paid.

Outside the Treasury Department, alongside the White House, Ronald Jackson said he drove 55 miles from Stafford, Virginia, only to be sent home. He had expected to work for at least a few hours.

"I think it's outrageous," Jackson said. "You know these guys are put into office to help the people, not to hurt them. We sent them there to get the job done. If we're not getting paid, they shouldn't get paid."

Members of Congress will continue to be paid during the shutdown as they struggle to get an agreement that would put the government back to work.

Some restaurants and bars in the area saw a business opportunity.

The Washington Post published a list of local bars offering discounts and even all-day "Happy Hours," it said, so that unpaid workers would not go hungry or thirsty.

In suburban Silver Spring, Maryland, Zena Polin, co-owner of The Daily Dish restaurant, told Reuters: "We're going to do a free cup of regular coffee to all government workers. Members of Congress pay double."

(Reporting by Ian Simpson,; Elvina Nawaguna, David Lawder, Stelios Varias, Jason Reed, Howard Goller, Susan Heavey; Writing by Doina Chiacu; Editing by David Storey)