The Budget Impasse : Shutdown Notebook

A look at the impact of the partial shutdown around the United States:

The Lines Are Sizzling: The White House comment line, cut back in the government shutdown, reopened at capacity Friday just in time to field thousands of calls. Press Secretary Mike McCurry said the White House switchboard received 30,000 calls Thursday, up from an average of 5,000 a day. A touch-tone comments line allowing people to log answers to various questions received 26,000 calls Thursday, up from an average of 4,000 a day. The comments line normally allows callers to also talk to a real operator, but staff reductions at the White House had eliminated this option until Friday.

Comment line (202) 456-1111

They Say It With Snacks: Clinton and House Speaker Newt Gingrich finally reached a deal Friday. A sweet deal. Nutty, too. The budget brawlers agreed through their spokesmen to exchange confections, if not concessions. The opening offer came Thursday, when McCurry sarcastically offered Gingrich an official box of Air Force One M&Ms; because Speaker complained he was snubbed this month aboard the presidential plane. In a letter to McCurry, Gingrich spokesman Tony Blankley responded, “When Newt heard you mentioned those great Air Force M&Ms;, he just couldn’t resist. So here’s the deal all Washington has been waiting for: Georgia peanuts for Air Force One M&Ms.;” The nuts were not enclosed. “Go check and make sure the peanuts are actually here,” McCurry joked. The Georgia peanuts were indeed delivered.


Leopard’s Date Postponed: Count T.J. the leopard among the victims of the federal shutdown. T.J., an amur leopard at the Sedgwick Zoo in Wichita, Kan., was scheduled to get a male mate. Thursday in a loan from a Canadian zoo. ZOo officials were hoping the union would result in a pregnancy. But this week’s federal budget crisis canceled those plans because federal inspectors were sent home and couldn’t approve the transfer. “As long as the goverment is shut down, we can’t do this,” Aletha Kinser, the zoo registrar, said Friday. “They’re holding us hostage.”

Free at Last: The Richard Nixon Presidential Library & Birthplace in Yorba Linda, Calif., the only presidential library open during the budget crisis, was offering free admission and a 15% discount in the gift shop to furloughed federal employees.