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US govt shutdown puts a damper on DC's Christmas festivities

China Daily | Updated: 2018-12-26 09:53

Litter spills out of a public trash can next to the Washington Monument on the National Mall in Washington on Monday. ERIC BARADAT/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

WASHINGTON - The lights were not twinkling. The toy trains were not whirring. Even the nearby bathrooms were locked.

The US national Christmas tree, symbol of a country's seasonal cheer, instead stood as an icon of a government in paralysis, as the partial shutdown stretched into the holiday with an array of federal services frozen, about 800,000 public servants either idled or about to be and the disruption to the broader public bound to grow when the quiet spell ends later this week.

Already facilities at many national parks were shuttered, if the parks were accessible at all, and thousands of federal buildings were to remain closed when the workweek resumed unless US President Donald Trump and members of Congress quickly break through a budget impasse that the White House said could drag on into 2019.

Under cloudy skies in a brisk wind on the third day of the shutdown, the capital put on little holiday wonder for visitors like Greg Forcherio of Columbia, Maryland, a government contractor with no office to work in after the holidays as long as federal buildings stayed closed. He, his wife and their toddler on Monday came to see the giant, glittering spruce tree brought from Colorado to serve as the national Christmas tree, normally a focal point for Washington holiday visitors.

But a locked chain-link fence blocked access to the site and the nearby White House visitor's center and its bathrooms were closed, with a hand-scrawled sign directing visitors to portable toilets, which also were chained shut. "Kind of annoying when you've got young children," Forcherio said.

Access to the site was restored later on Monday and finally, as night fell on Christmas Eve, the lights returned. The government had announced a day earlier that it would be sealed off because of the shutdown and because repairs had slowed after an episode of vandalism on the tree before the weekend. It reopened with money from the National Park Foundation, a charity.

Extra stress

In the mountain town of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, Taylor Futch said the shutdown has already put extra stress on her family, whose sole income comes from her husband, a wildlife biologist who works with black bears for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. With two young daughters, the couple is facing an $800 land payment due at the beginning of January as well as a mortgage, car payment and the usual bills.

"We're trying to gather up a couple things just in case I need to start selling stuff on Facebook or eBay," she said. "If his paycheck doesn't get here on Friday, we may not have enough for the mortgage."

The immediate impact was blunted by the timing of the shutdown - spanning a weekend and now Christmas Eve and Christmas, both federal holiday days. But there was little chance to solve anything before Thursday at the earliest, when the House and Senate return to work.

Meanwhile, some people believed the shutdown won't be long before resolved.

"I think this happens every few years. When people with stiffened jaws look at each other in the eyes. And they're just staring each other down for now. They will find a compromise," A local visitor Darin Imbriaco said.

AP-XINHUA

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