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 White House details shutdown costs
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1 year ago

White House details shutdown costs

WASHINGTON (AP) - Federal worker furloughs cost the government 6.6 million work days in last month's partial government shutdown.

That's according to the White House budget office.

Taxpayers will foot the $2 billion cost of providing back pay to the 850,000 workers sent home during all or part of the 16-day shutdown.

The Obama administration has already said the shutdown, and uncertainty over raising the government's borrowing cap, will curb economic growth in this quarter.

The budget office says closing national parks cost communities $500 million in lost spending by visitors.

And the IRS delayed $4 billion in tax refunds and will have to delay next year's filing season by up to two weeks.

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1 year ago

2 parties bicker over blame for parks shutdown

WASHINGTON (AP) - As congressional leaders raced to seal a deal that would reopen the government, lawmakers from both parties jabbed at one another Wednesday over who was to blame for the most high-profile casualties of the 16-day shutdown: the national parks.

At a House hearing, members of Congress focused on the World War II Memorial on the National Mall, where veterans were initially denied access after the government closed on Oct. 1. A crowd that included Republican lawmakers converged on the memorial Sunday, pushing past barriers to protest the site's closure.

The memorial and other national park units have become a political symbol as lawmakers bicker over blame for the park closings.

Republicans say many parks and open-air monuments did not need to be closed, but Democrats said the GOP had only itself to blame for the shutdown, after Republicans demanded that measures to defund the new health care law be included in bills to keep the government open.

Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., held up a mirror at the hearing and invited Republicans to look at it to find the cause of the shutdown.

Governors in at least five states have reopened national parks such as the Grand Canyon and Statue of Liberty in recent days, but Republicans say the measures were too little, too late.

Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., said the National Park Service appears to have intentionally made the shutdown "as painful and visible as possible."

Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis denied that, saying that turning away visitors "is not in our DNA."

Jarvis called the agreements with governors that have allowed some parks to reopen "a practical and temporary solution that will lessen the pain for some businesses and communities - a Band-Aid until Congress passes an appropriations bill."

Jarvis, who appeared at the hearing only after being issued a subpoena, urged Congress to reopen the government so his agency can reopen all 401 national park units.

Republicans, including Hastings and Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said the Park Service acted in a political and provocative manner when it set up barricades at open-air monuments such as the World War II Memorial and placed traffic cones along highway viewing areas outside Mount Rushmore and other parks.

Hastings heads the House Natural Resources Committee, while Issa leads the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The committees held the joint hearing.

Jarvis defended placement of barricades at the World War II Memorial and other sites, saying that all but a dozen park service employees who work at the National Mall have been furloughed. Given the limited staff resources during the shutdown, "prudent and practical steps were taken to secure life and property at these national icons where security has become increasingly complex in a post-9/11 world," he said.

Contrary to the assertion of several Republican lawmakers, Jarvis said the Park Service allowed veterans and their families to visit the World War II Memorial.

"We know that visits of America's World War II veterans to the memorial are pilgrimages that many of them will only make once," he said. "Throughout the shutdown, we have worked diligently to try and ensure that no Honor Flight group, veteran, or their family has been turned away from visiting the veterans' memorials."

An organization called the Honor Flight Network brings World War II veterans to Washington.

Other visitors also are allowed at the memorial under an exception that allows First Amendment activities, Jarvis said.

Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., was not impressed. He said Jarvis's decision to set up barricades at the Lincoln and World War II memorials was "wrong" and mean-spirited.

"You besmirched (the Park Service's) reputation and soured relations with Congress," Lamborn told Jarvis. "In my opinion you have failed."

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., denounced Lamborn's comment and called Jarvis an "exemplary" public servant. Connolly called the hearing a "theater of the absurd" and "an audacious attempt by the majority to deflect responsibility and blame for the real-world consequences of a government shutdown."

GOP Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah, along with former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, were among those at the World War II Memorial on Sunday. Cruz, Lee and other tea party-backed lawmakers refused to keep the government operating unless President Barack Obama agreed to defund the nation's health care overhaul.

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1 year ago

Cruz won't delay vote on bipartisan budget deal

WASHINGTON (AP) - Republican Sen. Ted Cruz says he won't delay a vote on a bipartisan budget deal that will reopen the government and avoid a financial default.

Cruz had forced the shutdown by demanding that President Barack Obama gut his health care law in exchange for a bill to keep the government running.

He told reporters Wednesday that he would vote against the bipartisan bill but wouldn't use Senate delaying tactics to stall the legislation.

The Texas senator has won praise from the tea party and other conservatives for his actions.

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1 year ago

Shutdown affects office operations

United States Attorney Stephanie A. Finley announced today that operations of the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana, all divisions - Lafayette, Shreveport, Monroe, Alexandria, and Lake Charles continue to suffer from the effects of the partial shutdown that started at midnight on October 1, 2013.

The office as a whole is operating with 54 percent of its original staff. Most civil litigation has stopped. Because of the partial shutdown, the majority of the office's staff
working on civil litigation continues to be furloughed. The few remaining employees in the Civil Division have been left to monitor hundreds of civil matters to ensure the
interests of the United States are protected.

Administrative and criminal support staff have also been furloughed, but criminal litigation is ongoing, as these activities are deemed essential to the safety of human life and the protection of property. The U.S. Attorney's Office continues to work with federal, state, and local law enforcement on criminal matters.

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1 year ago

Starbucks asks customers to sign petition

NEW YORK (AP) - Starbucks, better known for its piping hot coffee, is throwing itself in the middle of yet another heated national debate.

The world's biggest coffee chain said Thursday that it will ask customers and businesses to sign a petition calling for an end to the partial government shutdown that has forced hundreds of thousands of federal workers off the job.

The petition, which will be available at all Starbucks 11,000 U.S. locations to sign beginning Friday, calls for reopening the government, paying debts on time and passing a long-term budget deal by the end of the year. In addition to Starbucks customers, Schultz is trying to get the CEOs of the nation's largest companies to sign.

The move is unusual for a company like Starbucks. While big brands generally steer clear of politics to avoid alienating customers, Starbucks and its outspoken CEO, Howard Schultz, in recent years have run toward the spotlight by trying to gain a voice in national political issues.

But because the company's efforts are generally non-partisan and unlikely to cause controversy, marketing and corporate image experts say they burnish Starbucks' reputation as a socially-conscious company.

"It's always risky when brands mix politics and business," said Allen Adamson, managing director of the New York-based branding firm Landor Associates. "But the benefit for Starbucks likely outweighs the risk."

Last month, Schultz asked customers not to bring guns into Starbucks stores. In December of last year, the chain asked its employees to write "Come together" on cups to send a message to lawmakers about the damage being caused by the divisive negotiations over the "fiscal cliff," a combination of tax and spending cuts that was scheduled to become effective Dec. 31, 2012.

And In 2011, Schultz asked other chief executives to join him in halting campaign contributions until politicians stopped their partisan bickering over the debt ceiling, which led to a downgrade in the country's credit rating. The CEOs of more than 100 companies, from AOL to Zipcar, took the pledge. Also in 2011, Starbucks collected donations for a program to stimulate job growth.

On Wednesday, the company made headlines when it said it would give a free coffee to anyone in its stores who buys someone else's order in a "pay it forward" gesture.

On Friday, Starbucks plans to post its petition to try to put an end to the partial government shutdown in the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today and the Wall Street journal. It will also be in stores and available to print out.

"I believe that we will capture the voices of the American people," Schultz said. "We want to send a powerful message to Washington."

Online:

www.cometogetherpetition.com

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1 year ago

Bill to pay military death benefits heads to Obama

WASHINGTON (AP) - A bill to provide benefits for the families of fallen troops is heading to President Barack Obama, a move that failed to quell the furor over the Pentagon's suspension of payments during the partial government shutdown.

By voice vote Thursday, the Senate approved a measure that would reinstate benefits for surviving family members, including funeral and burial expenses, and death gratuity payments. The Pentagon typically pays out $100,000 within three days of a service member's death.

Twenty-nine members of the military have died on active duty since the government shutdown began last Tuesday.

The Pentagon infuriated congressional Republicans and Democrats and touched off a national firestorm when it said that a law allowing the military to be paid during the partial government shutdown did not cover the death benefit payments. Congress passed and Obama signed that measure into law before the government shutdown last Tuesday, and lawmakers insist that the benefits shouldn't have been affected.

In stepped a charity, the Fisher House Foundation, which Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Wednesday would cover the costs during the shutdown. Hagel said the Pentagon would reimburse the foundation after the shutdown ended.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said Thursday that the organization is "extraordinarily generous and they do very good work," but he pressed for Senate passage of the benefits bill to ensure the Defense Department and Fisher House wouldn't have to figure out a special work-around.

The government could not actively solicit funds from private organizations but could accept an offer.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the Pentagon had essentially resolved the problem and the issue was moot, but he didn't object to passage of the bill.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the arrangement with Fisher House means "the legislation is not necessary" because the issue has been resolved. He would not say whether Obama would sign the bill.

Across the Capitol, Republicans on a House Armed Services panel excoriated Pentagon comptroller Robert Hale, accusing him of playing politics with his interpretation of the original law. They said the law was designed to pay the death benefits as well as keep all Defense Department civilians on the job - not to select the most essential.

"You went out of your way to make this as ugly as possible, to inflict as much pain as possible on this department," said Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., who introduced the first bill days before the shutdown in an attempt to exempt the military.

Hale responded that the law was poorly written and there never should have been a shutdown in the first place.

"I resent your remarks," the budget chief said. "I acted on the advice of attorneys and our best reading of a loosely worded law."

He said it was "not a political judgment - we were trying to do what the law said."

The chairman of the House subcommittee, Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., told Hale that while he welcomed the charity organization's help "to fill this senseless void created by government lawyers narrowly interpreting the law, it is Secretary Hagel's responsibility to make the hard policy judgment and to do the right thing. That is to find a way to treat our families with the respect and dignity they have earned."

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1 year ago

Boehner offers debt extension; WH says likely OK

WASHINGTON (AP) - Facing a fresh deadline, House Speaker John Boehner says Republicans would vote to extend the government's ability to borrow money for six weeks - but only if President Barack Obama first agrees to fresh negotiations on spending cuts. Under the Republican plan, the partial government shutdown would continue.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama "would likely sign" a clean bill increasing the debt cap. He said the president also wants Republicans to reopen the government. But he did not rule out Obama agreeing to the debt ceiling proposal if the government remains closed.

Carney says the White House has yet to see a specific proposal from House Republicans. Boehner and other members of his caucus are scheduled to meet with the president at the White House Thursday afternoon.

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1 year ago

Stocks soar on hopes for deal to avoid US default

NEW YORK (AP) - The stock market broke out of a three-week funk Thursday as Washington moved closer to a deal to avert a U.S. government default.

The Dow Jones industrial average jumped 207 points, or 1.4 percent, to 15,004 after the first hour of trading.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 24 points, or 1.4 percent, to 1,680. The Nasdaq composite index added 62 points, or 1.7 percent, to 3,740.

The market has been sliding since mid-September as Washington's gridlock got investors worried that the U.S. could default on its debt and wreak havoc on financial markets. As of Wednesday the S&P 500 index had fallen 4 percent since reaching an all-time high of 1,725 on Sept. 18.

President Barack Obama will meet with top House Republicans at the White House in an effort to break a logjam that has left the government shuttered for more than a week.

House Republican leaders appear to be ready to advance a short-term increase in the government's borrowing authority that would prevent a default on U.S. government debt next week. Sources told The Associated Press in Washington that House Speaker John Boehner was trying to rally support for a six-week extension for the debt ceiling.

A potential compromise between the two political parties could not come soon enough.

On Thursday, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew urged Congress to raise the government's borrowing limit before the current cap is reached on Oct. 17, warning that a Republican idea to prioritize payments with cash on hand could cause "irrevocable damage" to the U.S. economy.

On Wednesday, Fidelity Investments, the nation's largest money market fund manager, said it had sold all of its short-term U.S. government debt in an effort to limit money market investors' exposure to a potential default.

There were hopeful signs in the market for short-term U.S. government debt early Thursday. The yield on the one-month Treasury bill dropped to 0.17 percent from 0.27 late Wednesday.

The yield had spiked from near zero at the beginning of the month to as high as 0.35 percent Tuesday as investors dumped the bills out of concern that the government might not be able to pay them back when they're due. Investors demand higher yields when they perceive debt as being risky.

Among stocks making big moves:

- Teva Pharmaceuticals rose $4.40, or 3 percent, to $144.50 after the generic drug maker announced it was cutting its workforce by 10 percent.

- Ruby Tuesday plunged $1.38, or 18 percent, to $6.18. The restaurant chain reported a wider first quarter loss than expected, citing increased competition a difficult economic climate.

- Citrix Systems dropped $8.39, or 12 percent, to $58.28 after the company warned investors that its third-quarter revenue and profit will miss Wall Street's expectations.

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1 year ago

Boehner sending small group to Obama meeting

WASHINGTON (AP) - House Speaker John Boehner's office says a small group of House Republicans will meet with President Barack Obama on Thursday instead of the full caucus the White House invited.

Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said Wednesday that the meeting is only worthwhile if it's focused on finding a solution to the government shutdown. Buck said only the elected leadership and select committee chairmen will attend - 18 lawmakers out of the 232 invited.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said Obama was disappointed that Boehner was "preventing his members from coming to the White House." Carney, pinning blame for the shutdown on House Republicans, said the president wanted to talk directly with "the members who forced this economic crisis on the country about how the shutdown and a failure to pay the country's bills could devastate the economy."

Obama met Wednesday afternoon with the House Democratic caucus.

The White House said Obama also would meet separately Thursday with the Senate Democratic caucus. A meeting with the Senate Republican caucus also was expected soon.

Republicans are demanding talks on deficit reduction and Obama's health care law before approving spending legislation. Obama has said he won't negotiate until the budget is approved and the debt ceiling lifted, with no strings attached.

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1 year ago

Obama, Boehner trade barbs, hints of compromise

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner traded heated rhetoric yet also showed signs of compromise Tuesday, a frustratingly inconclusive combination that left an eight-day partial government shutdown firmly in place and the threat of an unprecedented national default drawing closer.

Stocks fell significantly - the Dow Jones average by 159 points - as political gridlock endured. And, in the latest in a string of dire warnings, the International Monetary Fund said failure to raise America's debt limit could lead to default and disrupt worldwide financial markets, raise interest rates and push the U.S economy back into recession.

Even the deaths of U.S. servicemen over the weekend in Afghanistan were grist for the politicians. The Pentagon said that because of the partial shutdown it was unable to pay the customary death benefits to the survivors. Republican House Speaker John Boehner said Congress had passed legislation last week permitting the payments, adding it was "disgraceful" for the administration to say otherwise.

In Congress, a plan by Senate Democrats to raise the debt limit by $1 trillion to stave off a possible default drew little evidence of support from Republicans.

And a proposal by the House Republicans to create a working group of 20 lawmakers to tackle deficit issues drew a veto threat from the White House, the latest in a string of them as the administration insists the GOP reopen the government and avert default before any negotiations on deficit reduction or the three-year-old health care law can take place.

Republicans "don't get to demand ransom in exchange for doing their jobs," Obama said at the White House. "They don't also get to say, you know, unless you give me what the voters rejected in the last election, I'm going to cause a recession."

On a day in which both Obama and Boehner appeared on live television, both men appeared to be giving ground yet yielding little if anything of substance.

At midmorning, Boehner and other Republicans seemed to soften their demands.

"I suspect we can work out a mechanism to raise the debt ceiling while a negotiation is underway," Rep. Tom Cole, an Oklahoma Republican who is close to Boehner.

The speaker, who had previously insisted on specific changes in the health care law as the price for preventing the shutdown, told reporters, "I want to have a conversation (with Obama and Democrats.) I'm not drawing any lines in the sand. It's time for us to just sit down and resolve our differences."

Asked if he was willing to raise the debt ceiling and fund the government for a short period, the Ohio Republican sidestepped. "I'm not going to get into a whole lot of speculation," he said.

A few hours later, Obama told a news conference he was willing to negotiate with Republicans on budget and other issues if Congress passed even short-term legislation to end the crisis.

"I'll even spring for dinner again," he said, referring to his courtship of Republican senators last winter, and attempting to inject humor into a political impasse where invective has been the norm.

Ninety minute later, Boehner was unsmiling.

"What the president said today was if there's unconditional surrender by Republicans, he'll sit down and talk," he said. Renewing his call for "a conversation" about key issues facing the country, the Ohio Republican said, "Not next week. Not next month. The conversation ought to start today."

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew has said the deadline for Congress to act is Oct., 17, setting that as the day the government will exhaust its ability to borrow funds and will have to rely day-to-day on tax and other receipts to pay its bills.

Some Republicans have downplayed the significance of the Oct. 17 deadline, saying that even then, the United States would be able to pay China and other holders of U.S. debt and avoid widespread economic dislocation.

But Obama said they were badly misguided, warning that default would harm the economy, cause retirement accounts to shrivel and houses to lose value. Still other Republicans have made it clear in recent days they agree with the threat posed by default and are determined to prevent it.

Inside a closed-door meeting of the Republican rank and file, Boehner had told his fellow Republicans they were in the midst of a tough battle and that Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid were trying to "annihilate us," according to one official in attendance.

Boehner's tone was different when he spoke to reporters.

"There's no boundaries here. There's nothing on the table. There's nothing off the table. I'm trying to do everything I can to bring people together and to have a conversation," he said.

In the back-and-forth, the threat of a default overshadowed the continuing partial government shutdown. An estimated 450,000 federal workers are idled at agencies responsible for items as diverse as food inspection and national parks, although all employees are eventually expected to receive full back pay.

The House approved legislation during the day to pay for a resumption of Head Start, the pre-school program for disadvantaged children. The vote was 248-168. The bill was the latest in a string of measures to end the shutdown in one corner of government or another in hopes of forcing Democrats to abandon their own demands for a full reopening of the federal establishment.

Republicans also announced they would vote to make sure federal workers on the job don't miss their next regularly scheduled paycheck on Oct. 15.

The shutdown began more than a week ago after Obama and Senate Democrats rejected Republican demands to defund "Obamacare," then to delay it, and finally to force a one-year delay in the requirement for individuals to purchase health care coverage or face a financial penalty.

It was not a course Boehner and the leadership had recommended - preferring a less confrontational approach and hoping to defer a showdown for the debt limit. Their hand was forced by a strategy advanced by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and tea party-aligned House members determined to eradicate the health care law before it fully took root.

That portion of the strategy was doomed to failure, since money for the health care program was never cut off.

With the government partially shut down, Boehner and the GOP leadership decided to allow the closure showdown to merge with one over the debt limit.

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1 year ago

White House: Obama would veto special panel plan

WASHINGTON (AP) - The White House is threatening a veto of a House Republican proposal creating a special congressional committee that would have authority to recommend steps to raise the debt limit and reduce spending.

The White House Office of Management and Budget says President Barack Obama would veto the measure if it reached his desk. The budget office also say the White House opposes joining that legislation with a proposal to pay federal workers who have had to remain at their posts during the government shutdown.

Without congressional action, those workers would miss their next regularly scheduled paycheck on Oct. 15.

House Republican leaders unveiled the joint proposals Tuesday.

In a statement, the White House urged the House to reopen the government and pass an increase in the debt ceiling without conditions.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

President Barack Obama says he's fighting the budget battle because "we can't make extortion routine as part of our democracy."

Obama says he's willing to not only negotiate fiscal issues with Republicans, but changes to health care law. But he says first he wants them to pass a bill to stop a partial government shutdown.

Obama noted in a news conference at the White House Tuesday that the shutdown already made him cancel a trip to Asia this week. He argued the shutdown is hurting U.S. credibility around the world and - quote - "makes it look like we don't have our act together."

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1 year ago

Govt health and safety efforts slowed or halted

WASHINGTON (AP) - The government shutdown has slowed or halted federal efforts to protect Americans' health and safety, from probes into the cause of transportation and workplace accidents to tracking the flu. The latest example: investigating an outbreak of salmonella in chicken that has sickened people in 18 states.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recalled some of its furloughed staff to deal with the salmonella outbreak, which has sickened more than 270 people and was announced by the Agriculture Department late Monday. Before Tuesday, the CDC had only a handful of scientists working on outbreak detection, severely hampering its ability to track potentially deadly illnesses.

With federal workers on leave, the states have had to pick up much of the slack. In the case of food safety, state labs are investigating foodborne illnesses and communicating with each other - without the help of federal authorities, in many cases - to figure out whether outbreaks have spread.

Dr. Christopher Braden, head of the CDC division that investigates foodborne illness, said the agency will be able to better monitor the salmonella outbreak with the recalled federal staff. But the agency is monitoring more than 30 outbreaks, and gaps still exist as the federal bureaucracy limps through a shutdown beginning its second week.

"There's a backlog, and the team is going to have to work diligently and long hours to try and overcome that," Braden said. "It's possible we may find something we've missed, and when that's the case it's harder to start investigations later than earlier."

With staff furloughed last week, the CDC stopped monitoring for some foodborne pathogens, including shigella and campylobacter. The agency is now watching for those again, but Braden said some investigations are still on the back burner, including an ongoing outbreak of salmonella from handling live poultry that has sickened more than 300.

The CDC also has had to halt its surveillance of flu, an infectious disease that kills about 24,000 Americans in an average year. The agency tracks where large numbers of people are getting sick, identifies which strains are going around information, and signals when certain strains are becoming impervious to certain medications. That information can bolster vaccination campaigns and guide doctors' treatments.

The agency is also slashing its staffing on quarantine stations at 20 airports and entry points. When airline pilots or customs workers become aware of a sick traveler, they flag quarantine officers who can detain, examine and isolate those who might be an infectious threat to the U.S. public.

During the shutdown, quarantine station staff has been cut by 80 percent, meaning there's essentially only one person working at each station, said Dr. Martin Cetron, who leads CDC's division of global migration and quarantine. The lack of staff could heighten the possibility that some diseases could slip into the country at a time when measles is raging in Turkey and cholera is breaking out in Mexico.

Outside the CDC, other agencies that protect health and safety are strained. The shutdown has forced the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration to halt its regular mine safety inspections, which it normally conducts at each of the nation's underground mines every three months.

The lack of inspections is coming under scrutiny after three mine workers died in separate accidents on three consecutive days during the past week. The coal mining industry has not had three consecutive days of fatal accidents in more than a decade. MSHA has said it's premature to draw any conclusions about the link between the shutdown and the accidents, but the nation's largest mine workers union has raised alarms.

"The government's watchdog isn't watching," United Mine Workers President Cecil Roberts said. "Safety violations that would normally be caught and corrected as a result of those inspections are being missed. Even the smallest violations, when allowed to accumulate, can lead to dangerous conditions very quickly in a coal mine."

Federal occupational safety and health inspectors have stopped most workplace checks, and the National Transportation Safety Board is only investigating accidents if officials believe lives or property are in danger.

The Food and Drug Administration also has stopped routine inspections of food facilities in the United States and abroad, and border controls could be delayed. Food imports are still being inspected at borders, but any samples that need to be analyzed could be stalled because there are fewer scientists to analyze them.

Many federal workers who protect safety and health are still working, from air traffic controllers to airport screeners to the majority of federal law enforcement. Active duty military personnel are on duty. USDA's Food Safety Inspection Service, the agency responsible for investigating the poultry farm in California that is linked to the salmonella outbreak, is also mostly staffed.

But the absence of so-called nonessential workers who are furloughed can have a dangerous ripple effect, said Caroline Smith DeWaal, director of food safety advocacy at the Washington-based Center for Science in the Public Interest.

She noted that the CDC website has limited information and the USDA website is shut down, preventing concerned members of the public from finding out more information on the salmonella outbreak and other foodborne illnesses. The agencies aren't tweeting or disseminating health safety information except for a few releases to the media.

"This outbreak is just another example that requiring public health officials to make the choices about who to keep and who to send home can really have huge impacts on not only the individuals involved but on public health and safety," said Smith DeWaal. "These agencies are always running behind, and the idea that you can just shut them down is just foolish."

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1 year ago

Obama urges Boehner to hold vote to reopen gov't

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama says he told House Speaker John Boehner he's willing to negotiate with Republicans on their priorities, but not under the threat of "economic chaos."

Obama spoke to reporters at the White House Tuesday in the midst of the eighth day of a partial government shutdown and a few hours after calling Boehner.

Obama says he urged Boehner to hold a vote immediately to reopen the government.

The White House says Obama also urged Boehner to hold a vote that would allow the government to borrow more money.

Senate Democrats are planning a vote this week to provide new borrowing, without new spending cuts Republicans want.

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1 year ago

State Police: Government Shutdown on AMBER Alerts Clarification

Despite the weekend shutdown of the Department of Justice webpage www.amberalert.gov, the activation of AMBER Alerts in Louisiana was not impacted. The Louisiana AMBER Alert plan is based on local and statewide partnerships and is independent from the federal government. The www.amberalert.gov page has since been reactivated and is primarily an informational site regarding statistics, reports and overviews of individual plans.

While the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, a non-profit organization, does receive some funding from the federal government, it will also continue to supplement state and local plans via their AMBER Alert Secondary Distribution Program to major corporations, transportation companies, internet search engines, etc.

For more information on the Louisiana AMBER Alert plan, please visit http://lsp.org/amber.html.

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1 year ago

La. agencies hold off most shutdown impacts so far

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Louisiana's state agencies remain largely unaffected by the federal government shutdown, with road construction on track, food stamps delivered and other programs continuing despite the disruption in Washington.

But as the stalemate stretches into its second week, uncertainty lingered Monday about whether agencies can continue to hold off the shutdown's impacts on federally-funded programs.

For example, a nutrition program for women and children in low- to moderate-income families has funding through October. The state health department doesn't know what will happen for November if a deal isn't struck.

Similar questions exist for social services programs paid with federal dollars, like food stamp, child care assistance and welfare programs. Those are covered through October, with no word yet about what recipients can expect a month later if the stalemate drags on.

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1 year ago

Shutdown impact: Tourists, homebuyers hit quickly

A government shutdown is having far-reaching consequences for some, but minimal impact on others.

Mail is being delivered. Social Security and Medicare benefits continue to flow. But vacationers are being turned away from national parks and Smithsonian museums, and that's having a ripple effect on those businesses and communities that rely on tourism. Borrowers applying for a mortgage can expect delays, particularly many low-to-moderate income borrowers and first-time homebuyers.

A look at how services have been affected, and sometimes not, by Congress failing to reach an agreement averting a partial government shutdown.

AIR TRAVEL Federal air traffic controllers remain on the job and airport screeners continue to funnel passengers through security checkpoints. But safety inspections of planes, pilots and aircraft repair stations by government workers have ceased because federal inspectors have been furloughed.

INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL The State Department would continue processing foreign applications for visas and U.S. applications for passports, since fees are collected to finance those services. Embassies and consulates overseas are expected to remain open and provide services for U.S. citizens abroad. A small, but undisclosed, number of employees have been furloughed from several programs, including the State Department's Office of Inspector General and the International Boundary and Water Commission.

BENEFIT PAYMENTS Social Security and Medicare benefits continue to be paid out, but there could be delays in processing new disability applications. Unemployment benefits are also still going out. FEDERAL COURTS Federal courts continue to operate normally and will do so until mid-October. If the shutdown continues, the judiciary would have to begin furloughs of employees whose work is not considered essential. But cases would continue to be heard. The Supreme Court also says its business will go on despite the ongoing shutdown, and the high court will hear arguments Monday and will continue do so through at least the end of next week. The Supreme Court announced on its website that its building will be open to the public during its usual hours.

MAIL Deliveries continue as usual because the U.S. Postal Service receives no tax dollars for day-to-day operations. It relies on income from stamps and other postal fees to keep running.

RECREATION All national parks are closed. Grand National Canyon National Park was shut down for only the second time since it was created in 1919. The Grand Canyon averages 18,000 tourists per day in October, which has left hotels, concessionaires and tour operators losing money by the hour. In Washington, monuments along the National Mall have been closed, as have the Smithsonian museums, including the National Zoo. Among the visitor centers that have closed: the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island in New York, Independence Hall in Philadelphia and Alcatraz Island near San Francisco.

HEALTH New patients are not being accepted into clinical research at the National Institutes of Health, but current patients continue to receive care. Medical research at the NIH has been disrupted as some studies have been delayed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been severely limited in spotting or investigating disease outbreaks such as the flu or that mysterious MERS virus from the Middle East.

FOOD SAFETY The Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say they could handle recalls and high-risk foodborne outbreaks, but they are less likely to discover them because most of the people who investigate outbreaks have been furloughed. Routine food safety inspections conducted by FDA are suspended, so most food manufacturers won't have to worry about periodic visits from government inspectors to make sure their facilities are clean. U.S. food inspections abroad have also been halted. USDA's federal meat inspections are proceeding as usual, however. USDA inspectors are on the lines every day in meatpacking plants and are required to be there by law for the plants to stay open.

EDUCATION The Education Department has said that a shutdown beyond a week would "severely" curtail the cash flow to school districts, colleges and universities and vocational rehabilitation agencies that depend on department funds. For example, colleges rely on department funds to pay ongoing expenses for staff in programs for disadvantaged students. The department would not make additional details available on Friday about the number of districts, colleges and universities and vocational rehabilitation agencies that could more immediately feel the impact of a shutdown.

FOOD ASSISTANCE The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, known as WIC, has enough money to operate through the end of October, according to USDA. The department distributed almost $400 million in federal unexpended and contingency dollars this week to states to cover any shortfalls. The program provides supplemental food, health care referrals and nutrition education for pregnant women, mothers and their children. School lunches and breakfasts should have enough funding to be served, USDA says, and food stamps will continue to be distributed through October. But both programs could face shortfalls if the shutdown continues into November.

TAXES Americans would still have to pay their taxes and file federal tax returns, but the Internal Revenue Service suspended all audits. The IRS also will not be processing any tax refunds during the shutdown. Got questions? Sorry, IRS call centers will not be staffed, though automated lines are still running.

LOANS Borrowers applying for a mortgage can expect delays, especially if the shutdown is prolonged. That's because many lenders need government confirmation of applicants' income tax returns and Social Security data. Mortgage industry officials say they expect bottlenecks on closing loans if the shutdown stretches on for more than a few days. The delays will particularly hit low- to moderate-income borrowers and first-time homebuyers who are seeking government-insured mortgages for single-family homes from the Federal Housing Administration. Multifamily FHA mortgage approvals are suspended. Action on government-backed loans to small businesses is also suspended. It's business as usual for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans, which are not impacted by the shutdown.

SCIENCE NASA continues to keep workers at Mission Control in Houston and elsewhere to support the International Space station, where two Americans and four others are deployed. It also exempted a robotic probe to Mars from the shutdown because time is tight to be ready for a once-every-two-year launch opportunity. The National Weather Service is forecasting weather and issuing warnings while the National Hurricane Center continues to track storms. The scientific work of the U.S. Geological Survey has been halted.

HOMELAND SECURITY The majority of the Department of Homeland Security's employees have stayed on the job, including uniformed agents and officers at the country's borders and ports of entry, members of the Coast Guard, Transportation Security Administration officers, Secret Service personnel and other law enforcement agents and officers. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services employees continue to process green card applications. However, the four Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers, run by DHS, have shuttered training operations for federal agents. The closure of those services could delay when newer employees with the Border Patrol, Customs and Border Protection and Capitol Police can go on the job.

LAW ENFORCEMENT The FBI estimates that in all, about 80 percent of its employees are working around the country. The FBI has about 34,000 employees. All FBI field offices around the country and the legal attache offices around the world are staffed and are prepared to meet any immediate threats and are protecting life and property. However, activities are suspended for other, longer-term types of investigations of crimes that don't involve an immediate threat. Training and other support functions have been slashed.

MILITARY The military's 1.4 million active duty personnel remain on duty. About half of the Defense Department's civilian employees were furloughed, but Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered nearly all 350,000 back on the job. National Guard and Reserve training has been cancelled for many units around the country.

PRISONS All 116 federal prisons remain open and criminal litigation proceeds.

VETERANS SERVICES Most services offered through the Department of Veterans Affairs continue because lawmakers approved money one year in advance for the VA's health programs. Veterans are still visiting hospitals for inpatient care and getting mental health counseling at vet centers at outpatient clinics. Operators are also staffing the crisis hotline, but regional offices are not taking calls. The VA continues to process payments providing veterans compensation for disabilities and pensions. However, claims processors are no longer being required to work 20 hours of overtime per month, which VA officials say is stalling progress in reducing the disability claims backlog, which stood at 418,500 at the end of September. If the shutdown continues into late October, the VA warns that compensation and pension payments to veterans will be halted.

TRANSPORTATION ACCIDENTS The National Transportation Safety Board is passing up investigations into most transportation accident unless officials believe lives or property are in danger. The board collected some preliminary evidence, but didn't dispatch investigators to an air crash that killed four people in Paulden, Ariz. The board also decided not to investigate a church bus accident in Tennessee that killed eight people, the death of a Washington-area subway worker, or a missing plane in the Mariana Islands. But investigators stayed on the job to probe a train collision in Chicago.

WORK SAFETY Federal occupational safety and health inspectors have stopped workplace inspections except in cases of imminent danger.

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1 year ago

Lawmaker Salaries During Government Shutdown

It's now day four of the government shutdown, and the standoff between the Democrats and the Republicans continues with no resolution in sight.

While about 800,000 Federal workers are furloughed during the shutdown, members of congress are still getting paid. But are they taking the money?

"I don't think any of them should be getting paid. They're not doing their job. If we weren't doing our job, we wouldn't be getting paid. So it doesn't even make sense that they should feel they should be getting paid," Lafayette resident Stephen Brown said.

Many in Acadiana seem to agree, if the government is shutdown, members of Congress should not be getting paid. Members of the House and Senate make 174,000 dollars per year, which breaks down to about 476 dollars a day.

Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Senator David Vitter (R-LA) say their paychecks during the shutdown will go to charity. Representative Charles Boustany has plans for a Lafayette-based charity and says in a statement

"My pay is in escrow during these budget discussions on Capitol Hill. If my staff isn't paid after the Federal government shutdown ends, I will donate my pay to the Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children of South Louisiana," Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA) said.

"I think I really respect that because it shows how much they care about their country and their world. And it shows that they care about not starving innocent children and babies who done nothing to this world, who have done nothing to the government," Lafayette resident Lakayla Griffin said.

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1 year ago

Dems say it's time for GOP to unite, end shutdown

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama decided to stay home from economic summits in Asia as Democrats stepped up pressure on congressional Republicans to rein in their tea party faction and reopen the government with no strings attached.

House Republicans said that with Congress and the president in town this weekend, now is the perfect time to start negotiating a plan to reopen the government.

"All I'm asking for is let's sit down, like the American people would expect us, and talk to one another about getting the government open and dealing with the significant problems that we face," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters Friday. "This isn't some damn game."

GOP leaders said Friday the House will be in session Saturday so that Republicans can continue passing bills that would reopen selected parts of the federal government. The White House responded by issuing fresh veto threats, saying Congress should reopen the entire federal government.

The Labor Department, meanwhile, did not issue the monthly employment report for September that was due Friday because of the shutdown.

The White House called the partial government shutdown that entered its fourth day Friday "completely avoidable" and complained the shutdown was interfering with the president's efforts to promote trade and U.S. influence in emerging world markets.

Democrats pointed to disagreements within the Republican Party, where reluctant congressional leaders were prodded into a showdown over government funding and Obama's health care law by rowdier conservatives, such as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

To get the government up and running again, "it will take some coming together on the Republican side," said the House's lead Democrat, Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California.

"It's very hard to negotiate with the Republicans when they can't negotiate with themselves," Pelosi said Friday.

Senate Chaplain Barry Black opened Friday's business with a plea for God to "give our lawmakers the vision and the willingness to see and to do your will."

"Remove from them that stubborn pride which imagines itself to be above and beyond criticism. Forgive them for the blunders they have committed, infusing them with the courage to admit and correct mistakes," Black said.

Obama criticized Boehner for not bringing up a vote to finance the full reopening of the government without conditions.

"This shutdown could be over today," Obama said Friday as he stopped for lunch with Vice President Joe Biden at a local sandwich shop near the White House. "We know there are votes for it in the House."

Boehner and other Republicans put the blame on Obama. They say he should recognize the flaws of "Obamacare" and negotiate solutions as part of a deal to end the shutdown that forced the furlough of some 800,000 workers, more than a third of federal civilian employees.

Boehner said Obama was being "irresponsible."

On Friday, the Republican-led House was keeping up a drive to finance certain agencies and programs on a piecemeal basis - a strategy rejected by Obama and the Democratic-led Senate.

"We are not picking winners and losers," said Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn. "I think what we are doing is exercising stewardship over the taxpayers' dollars. ...I'm ready to go to work today and get it done."

The House planned a vote to fund a popular program providing food aid to pregnant women and their children, as well as ongoing disaster relief.

Furloughed federal workers would get retroactive pay under a bill the House plans to vote on Saturday. Some top Democrats have supported that idea alongside Republicans.

Obama had been scheduled to leave Saturday for economic summits next week in Indonesia and Brunei. His decision to cancel those plans underscored how entrenched both sides were in a partisan showdown with no end in sight.

"The cancellation of this trip is another consequence of the House Republicans forcing a shutdown of the government," White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement. "This completely avoidable shutdown is setting back our ability to create jobs through promotion of U.S. exports and advance U.S. leadership and interests in the largest emerging region in the world."

Lawmakers said the shutdown that began Tuesday when the government began its new budget year seemed to be quickly merging with a more critical showdown over the nation's expiring line of credit, raising the stakes for the still-fragile economy.

Obama and his Treasury Department said failure to raise the nation's borrowing limit, expected to hit its $16.7 trillion cap in mid-October, could precipitate an economic nosedive worse than the recent Great Recession. A default could cause the nation's credit markets to freeze, the value of the dollar to plummet and U.S. interest rates to skyrocket, according to a Treasury report.

Obama cataloged a litany of troubles that could be caused by the failure to raise the debt ceiling, from delayed Social Security and disability checks to worldwide economic repercussions.

"If we screw up, everybody gets screwed up," he said.

The speaker's office reiterated Boehner's past assertion that he would not let the government default on its debt. "But if we're going to raise the debt limit, we need to deal with the drivers of our debt and deficits," his spokesman, Michael Steel, said. "That's why we need a bill with cuts and reforms to get our economy moving again."

Pelosi spoke on "CBS This Morning," and Blackburn spoke on MSNBC.

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1 year ago

LR Air Force Base "maintaining" during shutdown

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. (AP) - The commander of the 19th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base says operations at the base are continuing despite the loss of about 350 civilian workers due to the federal government shutdown.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that Col. Patrick Rhatigan said Thursday the flights are taking place normally and airmen are taking on extra duties to make sure flights remain on schedule and other duties are performed as usual.

The base employs about 600 civilians and about 350 have been on leave without pay since the government shutdown on Tuesday.

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1 year ago

How some government programs are faring in the shutdown

As the federal government shutdown extends into its first week, people are still trying to figure out exactly how deeply the shutdown will affect their lives.

We reached out to a few local programs funded with federal dollars to see how long -- or if -- they can continue to function in the current fiscal environment.

WIC:
Funding for the supplemental nutrition program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) halted Monday night, as congressional Democrats and Republicans could not reach a budget resolution. The effects on the national program's 8.9 million recipients have varied, depending on the state.
While Arkansas, for instance, has a plan to continue the funding on a week-to-week basis, Utah's WIC offices have already had to turn away mothers who depend on the service for baby formula.
"States are operating in an environment of tremendous uncertainty," National WIC Association President & CEO Douglas Greenaway said in a statement. "It depends on the individual state and their unique situation is so fluid that it's nearly impossible for us to keep real-time tabs on each state's status."
Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals spokesman Ken Pastorick says the state's Women, Infants & Children (WIC) Program will not be able to add any new recipients as long as the government remains shut down. He added that current WIC benefits must still be honored by vendors, such as grocery stores.
Based upon the new federal guidance, it is estimated that the program can continue to operate for two weeks without dropping clients or benefits, or cutting back on personnel.
At this time, no employees are being furloughed.
The Commodities Supplemental Foods Program (CSFP) will not have funds available to continue operating as a result of the government shutdown.

HEAD START:
Roughly 19,000 children enrolled in the early-education Head Start programs nationwide might be unable to attend preschool this week, but in Lafayette Parish funding for the year is already in place.
"It won't have an effect on programs in our area," said Alvin Jones, who directs Lafayette's Head Start programs. "If they are funded from September to October, they are already shut down. We are funded from June 1 through May 31, so we are good. Just as with sequester, those programs (Sept.-Oct.) when we had the cut, those programs were immediately cut.
The cuts are still going to be felt elsewhere in the state. Jones said that in Louisiana, there will be approximately 1,435 fewer children served this year. There will be 4,120 fewer child/days served.
Twenty of Head Start's 1,600 U.S. programs did not receive the funding Monday night needed to keep their doors open. Some programs, such as the Cheaha Regional Head Start in Talladega, Ala., had to stop running as early as Tuesday morning.
"Some of these parents are working parents," Cheaha director Dora Jones told NPR. "Some of these parents are parents that are in school. They have no other choice and no alternatives for child care."
If the shutdown continues, more Head Start programs across the country could be forced to close, as well.

MEALS ON WHEELS:
The senior nutrition program Meals on Wheels might be forced to suspend services if the shutdown continues "for any considerable length of time," MOW President and CEO Ellie Hollander said in a Tuesday news release.
The program, which provides more than 1 million meals to seniors daily, relies on government funding to distribute its food. "Facing such funding uncertainty, programs could be forced to suspend meal services, create or expand waiting lists for meals, cut the number of meals or days they serve, reduce delivery days, etc.," Hollander added.
Meals on Wheels programs in Acadiana may soon feel the pinch of the federal government shutdown.
According to the Paula Walters with the Lafayette Council on Aging, the local Meals on Wheels program as well as other programs offered by the Lafayette Council on Aging receive a subsidy from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Walters says her agency received its subsidy for October. However, she says if the shutdown continues into November, seniors applying for Meals on Wheels will be put on a wait list. If the shutdown lasts past November, Walters says the Council on Aging will begin cutting back on other programs to save Meals on Wheels.
Walters adds that most of the Council on Aging's money comes from fundraising. The HUD subsidy, she says, allows the agency to provide meals to nearly 500 at-risk seniors daily.
Meals on Wheels will receive HUD subsidy for October. That subsidy is used to supplement the cost of the Meals on Wheels program. If funds don't clear next month, Lafayette COA will have to put people on waiting lists. The program will continue to feed currently on the rolls will be fed in November; new applicants will be put on waiting list. Should shutdown last past November, cuts will be made, but they don't what they will cut. Everything would be up in the air. COA will cut other programs before it cuts Meals on Wheels. About 500 at-risk seniors fed daily.
Most of money comes from fundraising, but the HUD subsidy allows COA to provide a number of services, including meals on wheels, to area seniors.

LOAN PROGRAMS:
The Federal Housing Administration will not approve or underwrite any new loans during the shutdown, which could cause delays for low- to middle-income borrowers and first-time homeowners. Roughly 30 percent of home mortgages are backed by the FHA. Small-business loans backed by the government would also be halted for approval.
Calls to the Lafayette office for comment went unanswered. According to a voice message, the employees there were on furlough.

HEATING ASSISTANCE:
If the shutdown stretches into colder days, some families might need to scramble to heat their homes. The federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) could be delayed in providing funds to families that cannot afford heat during the winter. The delay could affect 200,000 residents in Massachusetts alone, according to Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass.

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1 year ago

Game On: Army, Navy and Air Force To Play Despite Government Shutdown


BALTIMORE (AP) - Football is on for Army, Navy and Air Force this weekend although some other service academy sports are still suspended because of the government shutdown.

The Defense Department said Thursday everything was on hold at Navy through Sunday except for Saturday's football game against Air Force. According to Navy's website, 19 events were either postponed or cancelled on Saturday and Sunday, including men's and women's soccer games, swim meets and a women's volleyball match at home against Colgate.

Navy and Air Force received the go-ahead to play football because the game is not funded by the government. A sellout crowd is expected.

"We're just grateful that the Department of Defense is allowing us to move forward," Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk said. "Speaking on behalf of the athletic department, the fans and the majority of Annapolis, this is a huge relief that we're able to play."

Army will play its game at Boston College, too.

"I'm thrilled our students and those from the service academies will get to play their games this weekend," BC athletic director Brad Bates said. "Thank you, fans, for your patience and understanding the past couple of days."

Army confirmed the announcement later Thursday, saying, "Based on a decision by the Department of Defense, Army's football team will play at Boston College Saturday afternoon."

Ryan Yanoshak, assistant athletic director for athletic communications at Army, said the football team conducted its usual Thursday practice in the morning and the team would depart for Boston College on Friday afternoon.

But unlike with Navy, Army announced all previously scheduled contests that had not been canceled would go on as planned.

Service academy football games are paid for with nonappropriated funds and have been long planned. Such funds generally come from outside sources and are not approved through Congress.

Gladchuk said his department assured the Pentagon that no government money will be spent on any aspect of the game.

"We provided them with extensive and detailed information to help them justify their decision," Gladchuk said.

Gladchuk said a Navy home game typically brings in about $4 million from tickets, sponsorship, television and radio rights fees and other revenues such as parking and concessions.

Football revenue funds Navy's 32 other sports teams.

Saturday's game is particularly important because it will help decide the winner of the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy, awarded annually the service academy with the best record in games involving Air Force, Navy and Army. The winner of the last 13 Navy-Air Force games has gone on to win the coveted trophy.

Gladchuk said the Navy football team continued to practice this week with the notion that the game would go off as planned Saturday.

"It never entered their minds it wouldn't be played," he said. "All they were thinking is that kickoff is at 11:30. But obviously, the final announcement came as a relief and erased the shadow of uncertainty."

Earlier in the week, Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo decided the best approach would be to ignore the possibility of a cancellation and proceed as if the game would be played.

"We try to keep our preparation between the white lines because the things outside the while lines, obviously we have no control over," he said.

Senior wide receiver Matt Aiken, a captain on the squad, said, "At the Naval Academy we deal with a lot of obstacles like this. It's something we just have to overcome."

The service academies have played before during a government shutdown. The Midshipmen played at Air Force in 1990 under similar circumstances and hosted Tulane in November 1995 during a seven-day shutdown.

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1 year ago

Clapper: Shutdown harms spies' mission

U.S. intelligence officials said Wednesday that the government shutdown is seriously damaging the intelligence community's ability to guard against threats. They said they're keeping counterterrorism staff at work as well as those providing intelligence to troops in Afghanistan, but that the danger would increase daily with fewer spies to track targets.

Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper told Congress Wednesday that roughly 70 percent of the civilian workforce - including staff from the CIA, National Security Agency and Defense Intelligence Agency - have been furloughed.

Clapper told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he has tried to keep on enough employees to guard against "imminent threats to life or property," but may have to call more back to work if the shutdown continues.

"The risk is 75 percent more than it was yesterday," Clapper said, when asked to quantify the damage.

"The danger here... will accumulate over time. The damage will be insidious," Clapper said of the information lost because he has fewer staffers to track targets. "So each day that goes by, the jeopardy increases," he said.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, criticized President Barack Obama for what said was an unwillingness to work with Republicans on the budget impasse that caused the shutdown.

"I don't think President Obama should be playing politics with this. He should be stepping forward to address this problem right now....The intelligence community needs to be funded."

The federal government effectively shut down as of midnight Tuesday because of a standoff over the federal budget. House Republicans wouldn't agree to a bill to keep funding the government unless Congress and the administration agreed to stop paying for Obama's health-care overhaul law. The standoff could continue for days.

Clapper even raised the specter of treason, saying financial stress could make his intelligence officers vulnerable to being bought off by foreign spies.

"This is a dreamland for foreign intelligence service to recruit, particularly as our employees already, many of whom subject to furloughs driven by sequestration, are going to have, I believe, even greater financial challenges," Clapper said. Civilian government employees were forced to go on several days of unpaid leave this year because of the automatic budget cuts that went into effect last March.

NSA chief Gen. Keith Alexander told lawmakers that he has kept on employees working on "the most significant counterterrorism and other threats that we see into the support to our military forces in Afghanistan and overseas," but he said the sequester has had a huge impact on morale. While many employees at NSA are fulltime military and therefore exempted from the shutdown, many are civilian analysts.

The total number of employees at such agencies is classified.

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1 year ago

Obama shortens Asia trip because of shutdown

President Barack Obama has canceled two stops on his long-planned trip to Asia because of the partial government shutdown, the White House announced Wednesday.

Obama is scheduled to leave Saturday night for what was originally a four-nation tour. But the White House has called off the final two stops in Malaysia and the Philippines and is re-evaluating the stops in Indonesia and Brunei.

"We have no updates on the President's travel to major international summits in Indonesia and Brunei," said White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden. "We will continue to evaluate those trips based on how events develop throughout the course of the week. For the sake of our national security and economic prosperity, we urge Congress to reopen the government."

The shutdown took effect early Tuesday after Congress missed its deadline to fund the government.

Hayden said that since Malaysia and the Philippines were "on the back end of the President's upcoming trip, our personnel was not yet in place and we were not able to go forward with planning."

Hayden added: "The cancellation of this trip is another consequence of the House Republicans forcing a shutdown of the government. This completely avoidable shutdown is setting back our ability to promote U.S. exports and advance U.S. leadership in the largest emerging region in the world."

The White House said Obama called Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and Philippine President Benigno Aquino III on Tuesday to inform them of his change in plans and commit to traveling to both countries later in his term.

"I empathize and understand," Najib said Wednesday in Kuala Lumpur. "If I were in his shoes, I would do the same."

In Manila, Ricky Carandang, a spokesman for Aquino, also said Obama's decision was understandable, and said the Philippines looks forward to welcoming him "at a more opportune time."

Secretary of State John Kerry, who left Tuesday for Asia and plans to join Obama in Indonesia and Brunei, will represent the United States in Malaysia and the Philippines next week, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

The trip is part of Obama's broader focus on boosting U.S. economic ties with Asia. Obama twice canceled trips to Asia in 2010, once to stay in Washington for votes on his health care law, and once because of an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

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1 year ago

Government Shutdown Already Affecting Some in Acadiana

Today marks day one of the partial shutdown of the federal government.
While not all Americans will be directly affected, it's impacts could be felt across the state.
Here's a breakdown of what's affected here, no new W.I.C participants will be added, however current Womens, Infants, and Childrens benefits must still be honored.
The U.S.D.A. Will not issue any rural housing loans, which are a major source of mortgages in the area.
Checks from the V.A. could be in danger of being processed if the shutdown lasts for a long period of time.
The Department of Homeland Security says all non-disaster grants, like state and local preparedness programs, are on hold.
Passports and visas aren't being processed.
And the more than 14 million students who get aid through federal grants and loans may not get the money, because there won't be enough federal employees to process the payments.
When it comes to recreation, there are a half-dozen or so national parks in Louisiana, including the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and the Atchafalaya National Heritage area in Acadiana.
These have been closed, and campers in the parks were forced to leave.
Of those services affected by the shutdown, the shuttering of local
I.R.S. offices has many Acadiana residents concerned about their futures.

At the Lafayette I.R.S. offices, taxpayers faced a locked door.
"Where are we going to go? We come here, and there's no directions. nowhere to go, doesn't tell us who to call. There's nobody around to say nothing", says Larry Ledet.
Only 10% of I.R.S. employees will be reporting to work, meaning many phone calls and knocks on doors will go unanswered.
An automated message from the I.R.S. Says, "Due to the current budget situation, all I.R.S. offices are closed. Under federal law, all tax payments and filing deadlines remain in effect during this period."
Tiaira Powell responds, saying, "How are we going to get things done if we don't have a telephone number, contact, nothing. We can't do our job if the I.R.S. isn't doing their job."
Jordan Gerard, branch manager for the Louisiana Mortgage Group, says without the I.R.S., many rural loans will go unprocessed, hurting the local real estate market.
"So these loans are completely shut down. If you're scheduled to close today, tomorrow, Thursday, Friday, and you have a U.S.D.A. loan and you're waiting on the commitment from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to close, you're not going to get it", says Gerard.
The I.R.S. is suspending audits for taxpayers until the government gets back to work. Gerard and many in Acadiana will have to wait to do the same.
Gerard says, "We're going to work through it and come up with a contingency plan for everything. But until it starts happening we really don't know if it's going to be tomorrow or two months from now. If we're looking at more than two weeks I think things are going to get pretty hectic."

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1 year ago

Timeline: Congress' path to federal shutdown

The legislative twists and turns in Congress' battle over the partial government shutdown and the entwined Republican effort to curtail President Barack Obama's health care law:

Sept. 20: With a potential government shutdown 11 days off, the Republican-run House ignores a White House veto threat and uses a near party-line 230-189 vote to approve legislation denying money for much of the health care law while keeping the government open through Dec. 15. The measure moves to the Democratic-led Senate.

Sept. 24-25: As the Senate debates legislation to keep the government open, tea party Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and other conservatives speak on the chamber's floor for more than 21 consecutive hours against the health care law often called Obamacare. They do not delay or prevent votes, but they help intensify conservative fervor for using the shutdown bill to try forcing Democrats to limit Obamacare.

Sept. 27: The Senate votes 79-19 to end conservative efforts to derail the bill preventing a shutdown, with all Democrats and most Republicans opposing the conservatives. The Senate uses a party-line 54-44 vote to remove the House-approved provision defunding Obamacare, and an identical 54-44 vote to approve the overall bill. The bill, financing agencies through Nov. 15, goes back to the House.

Sept. 29: Just after midnight on Sunday morning, the House uses a rare and lengthy weekend session to shift its demands for restricting Obamacare. By a near party-line 231-192 vote, the House votes to delay implementation of the health care law by a year. It also votes 248-174 to repeal a tax on many medical devices that helps pay for the health care overhaul. The votes send the revamped shutdown bill back to the Senate.

Monday, Sept. 30:

-2:20 p.m. EDT: By 54-46, the Senate removes the House provisions postponing Obamacare and erasing the medical device tax. The shutdown bill moves back to the House.

-8:41 p.m.: The House approves a new shutdown bill 228-201 with different demands on Obamacare. It would delay for a year the requirement that individuals purchase health insurance, and require members of Congress and their staff to pay the full cost of health insurance, without the government paying part of the costs. The measure bounces to the Senate.

-9:37 p.m.: The Senate votes 54-46 to strip the House provisions on individual health insurance and federal health coverage subsidies for lawmakers and staff. The bill returns to the House.

-Shortly before midnight: White House Budget Office Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell sends memo to agency heads stating that a shutdown seems unavoidable and telling them to implement their plans for winding down.

Tuesday, Oct. 1:

-12:01 a.m. EDT: Government's new fiscal year begins. With no spending legislation enacted, partial federal shutdown begins to take effect.

-1:11 a.m.: House votes 228-199 to stand by its language delaying required individual health coverage and blocking federal subsidies for health insurance for lawmakers and staff, and to request formal negotiations with the Senate.

-10 a.m.: Senate votes 54-46 to reject House effort for formal bargaining.

-8:02 p.m.: Republicans stage votes aimed at selectively ending parts of the shutdown. But the chamber rejects each of three bills after the GOP uses an expedited procedure that requires two-thirds majorities for passage. The House votes 264-164 to fund veterans' benefits; 265-161 to let District of Columbia's municipal government spend locally raised funds; and 252-176 to reopen national parks and museums along the National Mall. All three lose.

1 year ago

State Wildlife Management Areas and Refuges to Remain Open During Federal Shutdown

Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) properties, including state wildlife management areas and state wildlife refuges will remain open during the federal government shutdown that affects federal wildlife refuges, preserves and national forest properties in Louisiana.

As deer and resident small game hunting seasons open this week, Louisiana hunters can access nearly 1.5 million acres of LDWF-managed public hunting areas.

To learn what is available, go to http://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/wma . For more information, contact Steve Smith at 318-623-9425 or ssmith@wlf.la.gov.

The Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is charged with managing and protecting Louisiana's abundant natural resources. For more information, visit us at www.wlf.louisiana.gov on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ldwffb or follow us on Twitter @LDWF.

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1 year ago

Shutdown stalling federal civil cases in Western District Court

The government shutdown won't affect criminal prosecutions in Lafayette's Western District Court, but it will cause a backlog of civil cases if it continues.

United States Attorney Stephanie A. Finley announced today that operations of the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana, all divisions - Lafayette, Shreveport, Monroe, Alexandria, and Lake Charles are being affected by the partial shutdown in effect since midnight, Oct. 1.

Most criminal litigation and related work will continue with limited interruption, as these activities are deemed essential to the safety of human life and the protection of
property. The U.S. Attorney's Office will continue to work closely with federal, state, and local law enforcement on criminal matters. However, because of the appropriation
lapse and partial shutdown, much of the office's staff working on civil litigation is being furloughed.

Administrative and criminal support staff are also being furloughed. All civil litigation in which the office is involved will be curtailed or postponed to the extent
possible without compromising public safety or the protection of property, and always subject to the direction of the federal courts.

Because of the effects of the appropriations lapse on activities of the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Attorney's Office will not be able to readily respond to
media inquiries. Press releases will be limited to urgent matters involving public safety.

The office's website will not be actively updated during the shutdown. The district will continue to receive communications from the public via mail, email and/or telephone.

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1 year ago

Acadiana residents trying to work around government shutdown

The federal government has shut down, and already the effects can be seen right here in Acadiana. Tonight on Acadiana's Newschannel, KATC's Alex Labat speaks to residents who are fighting to do their job without help from the IRS.

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1 year ago

Oil falls below $102 amid US government shutdown

NEW YORK (AP) - The price of oil slipped below $102 a barrel Tuesday after parts of the U.S. government were ordered to shut down because of a budget impasse in Washington.

Benchmark oil for November delivery fell 97 cents to $101.36 a barrel in midday trading in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark used to price imported crude used by many U.S. refineries, fell $1.41 to $106.96.

Relatively weak oil demand in the U.S. could weaken further if the shutdown curbs economic growth and continues to stop 800,000 federal workers from driving to work, according to Phil Flynn, a senior market analyst at the Price Futures Group.

"A prolonged stalemate could slow the economy and US oil demand," Flynn wrote in a report Tuesday.

The national average price of gasoline fell a penny to $3.39 per gallon, according to AAA, the Oil Price Information Service, and Wright Express. It's the 30th straight day of declines, and the average is now lower than it has been since Jan. 30.

Analysts say lower demand for gasoline in the fall, the switch to cheaper winter blends of gasoline and a smoothly-running refinery system is helping to push prices lower. They expect the price to sink further in the coming weeks.

Later in the day, investors will begin monitoring fresh information on U.S. stockpiles of crude and fuels.

The American Petroleum Institute will release its report on oil stocks later Tuesday, while the report from the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration - the market benchmark - will be out on Wednesday. The EIA says it will continue to operate despite the shutdown for several more days.

Data for the week ending Sept. 27 is expected to show a build of 2.4 million barrels in crude oil stocks and a draw of 1.4 million barrels in gasoline stocks, according to a survey of analysts by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos.

In other energy futures trading on Nymex:

- Wholesale gasoline fell 4 cents to $2.58 per gallon.

- Natural gas rose 7 cents to $3.63 per 1,000 cubic feet.

- Heating oil fell 4 cents to $2.93 per gallon.

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1 year ago

VA Medical Centers Remain Open Despite Shutdown

The Alexandria VA Health Care System is alerting the public that all six of the facilities are up and running today, continuing to provide care to this nation's Veterans without interruption.

Veterans Benefits Association payments are anticipated to continue through late October.

"The VA strongly believes that a lapse in appropriations should not occur. There is still enough time for Congress to act and fund critical Government operations," said Public Affairs Officer for Alexandria VA Health Care System, Tammie Arnold.

"Regarding health care: It's important to know that the Veterans Health Administration, the branch of VA that operates our VA medical centers, including the Alexandria VA Health Care System (facilities in Alexandria, Lafayette, Jennings, Natchitoches, Lake Charles and Fort Polk), has advance appropriations for fiscal year 2014. This means that our hospitals, clinics and other health services will remain open," added Arnold.

Benefits payments administered by the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA): Claims processing and payments in the compensation, pension, education, and vocational rehabilitation programs are anticipated to continue through late October. However, in the event of a prolonged shutdown, claims processing and payments in these programs would be suspended as available funding is exhausted.

The National Cemetery Administration says burials will continue, but may be on a reduced schedule.

"In the event of a prolonged shutdown, VA will continue to review and update its plan in conjunction with the applicable legal requirements and circumstances,"said Arnold.

Click here for a two-page Veterans Field Guide outlining which VA services would be impacted by a lapse in appropriations. You'll also find a more detailed contingency plan for your reference. The information is also available from our homepage www.va.gov.

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1 year ago

Acadiana Veterans React to Possible Government Shutdown

It's been 17 years since the federal government last faced a partial shutdown because of spending disagreements between the president and Congress.
But if a budget isn't agreed upon by midnight, the federal government would essentially come to a standstill.
While some government entities like mail and air travel would not be affected, others could be impacted.
National parks would likely close, and visitors using park facilities would be given 48 hours to make other arrangements.
Also, the FDA would likely suspend routine safety inspections, while still handling high-risk calls and situations.
Americans would still have to pay and file their taxes, but the IRS would probably suspend all audits.
You'll be out of luck if you have any questions, however, as taxpayer services like toll-free helplines could be shut off.

As KATC's Alex Labat reports, while some say the standstill shouldn't last long, others say they can't afford for the government to shut down.

The clock is ticking.
At midnight Monday night, the federal government will come to a haul if Congress and the president can't reach common ground.
The disagreement stems from the Affordable Healthcare Act.
While the Republican House refuses to fund "Obamacare", the Democratically controlled Senate insists the program be fully funded.
"The Senate will send the House a bill that is probably the same, with maybe a tweak, and says,"Okay, as a concession, we will eliminate the tax on medical devices." Republicans are more likely than not to rally around that and get that passed", says UL Political Science Professor Dr. Ryan Teten.
If the shutdown does happen, one of the government entities affected will be the Department of Veterans Affairs.
While the V.A. has a proposed budget of $150 billion next year, if funding disappears this year, veterans who depend on compensation and pension checks could see those disappear too. According to a VA spokesman in Alexandria, VBA payments will continue through late October.
"They're playing games in Washington, and there's nothing that you can say or do that will do anything. Unless you get a consensus among the people to do something to get them out of there", says Winston Copell.
He and Bennie Schovajasa are both veterans with the VFW in New Iberia, who say they've waited decades for the government to provide them with a proper V.A. clinic, and today's shutdown just means more of the same.
Schovajasa says, "The clinic in Lafayette was the same then as it is today. And they've been talking, and talking, and talking, and talking and no one has done anything yet.
While the shutdown means veterans and other federal employees might feel the sting of the shutdown, Teten says the sting shouldn't last long. He says, "I don't see a shutdown lasting very long at all because there's only a certain amount of time that Americans will put up with not getting paid. Principle only stand for a certain amount of time until I can't put food on the table for my kids."

A list of other areas and entities that might be affected can be found here.

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1 year ago

What does a government shutdown mean for Acadiana?

There's a lot of uncertainty surrounding a possible, partial government shutdown which is looming this Monday. While not all Americans will be directly affected by a shutdown, its impacts could be felt across the country. Here are some of the basics on what will remain intact, and what will be closed, should a government shutdown happen.

1. Military
Active duty military, including the National Guard, will have to show up for work on Tuesday. They will not be furloughed, however, there is a possibility paychecks could be delayed. If the shutdown lasts longer than a week, payroll could get behind and not be able to process paychecks due out on October 15th.

The real effect will be seen on the Guard's federal technicians, many of who would be furloughed under a shutdown.

"We are making plans," said Louisiana National Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Michael Kazmierzak. "If there is a shutdown, it will definitely affect our federal technicians.

"Obviously maintain all of ours security, emergency operations, and ongoing operations overseas," Kazmierzak said. "Our AGR (full-time, non-federally funded National Guard) personnel will remain at work, so in most cases those personnel are continuing in their normal duty status to fill in for those being furloughed."

2. Disaster Response
With the bulk of the hurricane season behind us, Louisianans can relax somewhat. According to Lafayette Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness Director William Vincent, a government shutdown will not affect emergency operations.. But the Department of Homeland Security says all non-disaster grants, such as state and local preparedness programs, would be postponed.

3. Government Services
Mail service, tax collection, federal prisons, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid will all remain intact if there is a shutdown. Also, unemployment benefits and food stamps would not be affected. WIC and school lunch programs could be threatened, however most states already have money set aside to fund these programs.

4. Obamacare
A government shutdown would not stop the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, from going into effect on Tuesday. This is because, like Social Security, Obamacare is a permanent entitlement that isn't subject to annual funding by Congress.

5. VA Benefits
VA compensation could be in danger if the shutdown lasts for a long period of time. The Department of Veterans Affairs said if the shutdown continues into late October, it will run out of money for compensation and pension checks to more than 3.6 million veterans who rely on the money to support themselves.

6. Tax Collection
Yes, tax collection will still take place if there is a government shutdown. This matters to the more than 12 million people who have requested an extension on their 2012 taxes, which is due by October 15th.

7. Federal Employees
It's unknown how many federal workers will be furloughed during the shutdown. There are exemptions, such as for employees necessary to protect public health, safety and property. Typically non-defense government employees are the ones considered for furlough first.

The federal judiciary, for example, have funds from fees to operate for 10 days. If a shutdown lasts longer, the judiciary would have to operate with only essential employees.

"We have 10 days, so we hope that we don't have to figure out what essential means," said Tony Moore, clerk of court for the Western District of Louisiana. "I will meet with our head judges and administrators. We will determine how to move forward."

Each government agency will decide on a contingency plan for furloughs, which must be sent to the White House for review.

Employees whose salaries are paid from sources outside an annual spending bill can still get paid and report to work.

8. Congress and the President
Members of Congress and President Obama will still get paid if there is a shutdown. If furloughs begin to affect the government's ability to process payroll, the President's check could be delayed.

Congress will still get paid thanks to a law that was intended to prevent Congress from giving itself a raise. That same law also protects members from a pay cut.

9. National Parks
There are a half-dozen or so national parks in Louisiana, including the Poverty Point National Monument, Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area. If there is a shutdown, all of those parks would close and people are already in the parks would be forced to leave.

10. E-Verify
The government system that allows companies to voluntarily check the legal work status of its employees would be shut down.

11. Passports and Visas
There is a chance that passports and visas will not be processed during a government shutdown.

12. Student Loans
The government provides aid to more than 14 million students through federal grants and loans. If a shutdown is prolonged, students may not receive this money because there won't be enough federal employees to process the payments.

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1 year ago

Vitter says he'll support US government shutdown

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - U.S. Sen. David Vitter told a packed town hall meeting Thursday that he will support a federal government shutdown this fall rather than agree to pay for President Barack Obama's health care law.

"I'm going to fight like the dickens. I'm going to vote to repeal, to delay, to defund," the Republican senator said.

Vitter said he won't vote for legislation to continue paying for U.S. government services beyond Sept. 30 if it contains money for the health care law's implementation.

Without passage of that legislation, the federal government could be temporarily shuttered.

The issue divides Republicans, some of whom say a shutdown could damage GOP candidates at the polls and create a backlash from the American public.

But participants in Vitter's town hall in Baton Rouge urged the GOP senator to stymie the Affordable Care Act in any way possible, saying a government shutdown would force Democrats to negotiate. At one point, several audience members shouted in unison, "Shut it down," loudly cheering the idea.

"Shut down the government! Shut down the government! Shut down the government!" Robert Ordeneaux, 65, a retired Exxon employee, yelled from his seat to applause.

Ordeneaux, along with several others in the audience said they'd be willing to temporarily lose their government benefits through Social Security, Medicare and other programs listed by Vitter that would stop issuing checks in a shutdown.

"As long as nobody in this room is going to call me about not getting their check, I'm all for it," Vitter told the crowd, which overfilled a local library meeting room.

The senator took questions from the group for more than an hour, many of which focused on the Democrats' health care law and ways to keep the insurance changes and coverage increases from being rolled out across the country.Vitter Announces Upcoming Town Hall Meetings

Wednesday August 28, 2013

St. Landry Parish Town Hall Meeting
10:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m. CT
Eunice City Hall
300 South 2nd Street
Eunice

Jefferson Davis Parish Town Hall Meeting
12:30 p.m. - 1:30 p.m. CT
Jennings Conference Center
210 South State Street
Jennings

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