WASHINGTON — The first legislative moves after the federal government officially shut down were familiar ones, as the Senate moved Tuesday morning to rebuff a procedural move by the House.
As the volleys between the two chambers resumed, signs of the shutdown were visible on Capitol Hill and elsewhere in Washington.
Many congressional staff members, declared “nonessential,” were absent, but long lines still persisted at security checkpoints.
On the Mall, the Lincoln Memorial and other monuments and museums were closed to tourists.
After mocking Republicans in a midnight speech for having “lost their minds,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) offered little comment as the Senate gaveled into session after 9:30 am EDT. He called for an immediate vote on the resolution passed by the Republican-led House. That resolution sought to set up a House-Senate conference committee to consider what to do next, a move Senate Democrats called unnecessary.
The result was another party-line vote, 54-46, to kill the House proposal.
The only allusion to the current state of affairs came from the Senate’s chaplain, retired Rear Adm. Barry Black, who prayed to “strengthen our weakness, replacing cynicism with faith and cowardice with courage."
A day after the House and Senate sent competing budget proposals back-and-forth multiple times, there is no clear answer to the impasse between the two chambers over how to end the first shutdown of the federal government in 17 years.
Republicans have insisted that any spending measure include provisions that would undercut President Obama’s new healthcare law, a major part of which — the online marketplaces where Americans can purchase insurance — became operational Tuesday morning. Democrats have said that they will not negotiate on Obamacare under duress and that the House must approve a measure funding government agencies with no conditions.
As the shutdown began to take hold, a new nationwide poll delivered bad news for the GOP: by 72% to 22%, voters opposed the idea of shutting down the government to block Obamacare, according to the poll by Quinnipiac University.
In the survey, 55% said gridlock in Washington was caused primarily by Republican determination to block Obama's initiatives, while 33% blamed Obama's lack of skill.
The poll also showed Democrats widening their advantage on a question asking voters which party's candidate they favor in the next congressional election. By 43% to 34%, voters said they preferred Democrats.
Polling takes on outsized importance during standoffs like the current one as each side tries to gauge how the public is judging its actions and whether to change course.