Tension, trash and empty museums: Ground views of the government shutdown

Americans spent the first days of the new year navigating park closures, piles of trash and withheld paychecks — all a result of the partial government shutdown, which is now in its second week.

Put most simply, President Trump wants Congress to approve funding to construct a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico. Democrats have refused. And until lawmakers pass a spending bill that funds the salaries of government employees and the institutions they run, nonessential expenditures — such as national museums and parks — must close down. National security personnel, such as airport screeners and those guarding the border, keep working.

Cover photo: Melina Mara/The Washington Post

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The view from the closed spaces, some of them tourist destinations, is a sobering reminder of just how much work goes into keeping federally funded institutions operating. In Washington, the ordinarily bustling Smithsonian museums are dark and empty and the trash cans that line the National Mall are overflowing.

National parks across the country, including Joshua Tree in California, are welcoming unsupervised humans, even though visitor centers are closed and gatekeepers are at home. Port-a-potties are brimming with waste, because there is nobody on duty to clean them, and volunteers are stockpiling toilet paper.

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Congress and the president, however, are still at work — attempting to resolve their stalemate over funding for the proposed border wall. After his first Cabinet meeting of the year, Trump met with Democratic and Republican congressional leaders in the White House Situation Room.

“The 5.6 billion is such a small number,” Trump added, citing the figure he wants for wall funding. “We’re talking about national security. This isn’t just a border.”

Melina Mara/The Washington Post

Melina Mara/The Washington Post

Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post

On Jan. 3, the new Congressional class will be sworn in, granting Democrats the majority in the House of Representatives.

It will also mark the 13th day of the government shutdown — with no end to the impasse in sight.

Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post