And so, nothing was.
And so, nothing was.
As a shutdown drew closer, Office of Management and Budget employees began to work late nights, scarfing Five Guys burgers and cold, wilted french fries. The questions came in: Will I be paid? Can I still use my BlackBerry if I can’t come to work?
Unclear, they said. And no.
Other agencies began an awkward sorting process. Who was “essential,” and would work in a shutdown?
“Any furlough is not a reflection on you or your performance,” Labor Secretary Hilda Solis wrote in a memo, hinting at the sting of being “nonessential” in a town that defines people by their work. “I value every single one of you and the work you do.”
Outside Washington, the assignments seemed even more surreal. At Mojave National Preserve in California, workers warned visitors they’d have to leave within 48 hours of a shutdown.
Not that anyone would notice.
“If we were furloughed, we wouldn’t have the staff to find them anyway,” park employee Danette Woo said.
‘This is it’
As the stalemate dragged on into Thursday night, President Obama summoned both Reid and Boehner to the White House. All week, Obama had sought to appear as Washington’s peacemaker, not as a partisan warrior on the Democratic side.
But there was a problem: Boehner wouldn’t give in and make peace.
With almost 24 hours to go until the government shut down, Obama gave Boehner an ultimatum on the speaker’s push to include abortion-related restrictions in the bill.
“John, I will give you D.C. abortion. I am not happy about it,” Obama said, according to a Democrat and Republican in the Oval Office. Boehner had been pushing to include both the restriction of government funding on abortions in the District of Columbia and a provision that would have placed limits on funds going to nonprofit groups that provide abortion services nationwide, including Planned Parenthood.
With the D.C. provision in hand, Boehner continued to push the president, aides said.
“Nope, zero,” Obama told Boehner. “Nope, zero. John, this is it.”
And that was it — for a little while. Later, White House aides said, Boehner returned to the issue. Evidently, he had pushed Biden too far.
If Republicans didn’t buckle on this provision, an angry Biden warned, “We’re going to have to take it to the American people.”
Nonetheless, they were close to agreeing to a dollar amount, or so the White House thought. By the next morning, though, White House aides said Boehner’s staff appeared to be asking for more cuts.
So Obama called Boehner. Where Biden had been threatening, Obama tried to appeal to Boehner’s sense of responsibility.
“I am the president of the United States and you are the speaker of the House. We are the two most consequential leaders in the U.S. government. We had a discussion last night and the staff negotiations don’t reflect that,” Obama told Boehner, according to White House staffers.
“The president believed Speaker Boehner was always there,” in understanding the gravity of the situation, a senior Obama aide explained. Boehner “did not want this to come to a shutdown.”