By Brian Tumulty
Gannett Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON - The federal government crept closer to a partial shutdown at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday after the Senate voted 54-46 this afternoon to table the latest budget proposal by the House.
WEB EXTRA: Questions and Answers About the Government Shutdown http://on.wgrz.com/19RoLS5
A shutdown would mean unpaid furloughs for up to half of the 67,430 New Yorkers employed by the federal government as well as a temporary interruption of some federal services for all New Yorkers.
In Western New York, the Federal Government is the largest single employer...with about 15,000 workers, at 100 agencies and offices in the 8 County region.
It's uncertain just how many will be furloughed should the shutdown occur...according to one union official we spoke with, all would be expected to report to work tomorrow, where they'll get the news.
New applications for federal small-business loans and federally guaranteed home mortgages would not be processed.
Passports would continue to be processed until money runs out, but passport offices would close if they are located in a federal building that is temporarily shuttered.
New York's 22 national parks would close, as would the two museums in Manhattan - the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum and the National Museum of the American Indian - managed by the Smithsonian Institution. New York's national parks saw 12.6 million visitors last year.
"Since we are a unit of the National Parks Service and this is a federal facility, we would have to shut our doors so for as long as the shutdown continued," said Molly Quackenbush, Executive Director of the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site in Buffalo. "We will not be able to welcome any visitors or tour groups," Quackenbush told WGRZ-TV.
The House voted 231-192 early Sunday morning to fund government operations through Dec. 15 contingent on delaying a key requirement of the 2010 Affordable Care Act for one year, repealing the 2.3 percent tax on medical devices that helps finance the law, and allowing employers not to cover contraceptive coverage for women in their health plans.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said the Senate will continue to reject the policy riders to the budget that are being attached by House Republicans.
"They are spinning their wheels,'' he said.
This afternoon's Senate vote could be followed by another House vote later today on a new set of policy requests by Republicans, who are attempting to undercut the health reform law. The law takes a major step forward Tuesday, when individuals begin enrolling in health insurance plans through state-based exchanges for coverage that begins Jan. 1.
Barring a last-minute end to the deadlock, about 800,000 to 1 million federal employees - out of a total 2.1 million - are expected to be furloughed nationwide, according to the American Federation of Government Employees. That's roughly between 38 percent and 48 percent of the federal workforce.
Most federal operations would continue during a shutdown, especially in areas involving travel and commerce.
The U.S. Postal Service would continue to deliver mail, TSA employees would continue inspecting luggage at airports and air traffic controllers would remain on the job.
Federally subsidized school lunches would be served because the U.S. Department of Agriculture already has made its monthly payment for October.
Social Security recipients would continue to receive their monthly benefits, as would people receiving unemployment insurance or participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program formerly known as food stamps.