(Radio Iowa) – For the first time since the mid-1990s, the federal government is essentially closed as Congress wrangles over funding for the federal health care program. Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, in his weekly conference call with reporters in Iowa this morning, says he’s upset the partisan bickering has led to this point.
Grassley says, “For one who predicted in last week’s interview with you folks that we wouldn’t have a shutdown, obviously I’m exasperated that we had one.” Grassley, a Republican, says his offices have been ordered to trim back to only “accepted” employees who are essential to the operations.
Beginning this afternoon and for the duration of the shutdown, he anticipates having only about 15-percent of his staff on duty. “We’re working to meet the legal requirements of the shutdown, serve Iowans and meet my constitutional responsibilities as a U.S. senator with a minimum number of accepted employees,” Grassley says. “My office will continue to have telephones answered in Iowa and Washington to receive input from Iowans.”
The Republican-controlled House passed a budget that would fund the federal government only if so-called Obamacare was defunded, a plan the Democrat-run Senate rejected. Given the impasse, Grassley was asked how long the shutdown may last.
“I don’t have any idea but I think that you soon wake up to the fact that it doesn’t accomplish much and it gets over pretty soon,” Grassley says. “If it’s going to be hours or days, I don’t know, but I don’t think it’s going to be weeks like 18 years ago.”
The last time the federal government experienced a shutdown was under the Clinton Administration — twice during late 1995 and early 1996. Those shutdowns lasted six days and 21 days, the longest in history. There have been 17 federal government shutdowns since 1977.