Pictures

Shutdown chokes Washington as stand-off deepens

US Park Ranger Richard Trott carries closed signs as others place barricades to close the Lincoln memorial on the National Mall, Oct 1, 2013 in Washington, DC. -- PHOTO: AFP
US Park Ranger Richard Trott carries closed signs as others place barricades to close the Lincoln memorial on the National Mall, Oct 1, 2013 in Washington, DC. -- PHOTO: AFP
The morning newspapers sit outside the closed Smithsonian Museum of National History on the National Mall, Oct 1, 2013 in Washington, DC. -- PHOTO: AFP
The morning newspapers sit outside the closed Smithsonian Museum of National History on the National Mall, Oct 1, 2013 in Washington, DC. -- PHOTO: AFP
A woman takes picture of a closed sign posted on the main gate of the National Zoo in Washington, DC, on Oct 1, 2013. -- PHOTO: AFP
A woman takes picture of a closed sign posted on the main gate of the National Zoo in Washington, DC, on Oct 1, 2013. -- PHOTO: AFP
US Park Ranger Richard Trott places a closed sign on a barricade in front of the World War II monument in Washington, DC, Oct 1, 2013. -- PHOTO: AFP
US Park Ranger Richard Trott places a closed sign on a barricade in front of the World War II monument in Washington, DC, Oct 1, 2013. -- PHOTO: AFP
A member of the Park Police places police tape in front of the Lincoln Memorial due to a partial government shut down in Washington, DC, US on Tuesday, Oct 1, 2013. -- PHOTO: AFP
A member of the Park Police places police tape in front of the Lincoln Memorial due to a partial government shut down in Washington, DC, US on Tuesday, Oct 1, 2013. -- PHOTO: AFP
A notice advising visitors that the American Cemetery is closed due to the partial shutdown of the US federal government hangs from the gates of the cemetery in Suresnes, west of Paris, Tuesday Oct 1, 2013. -- PHOTO: AFP
A notice advising visitors that the American Cemetery is closed due to the partial shutdown of the US federal government hangs from the gates of the cemetery in Suresnes, west of Paris, Tuesday Oct 1, 2013. -- PHOTO: AFP
The Statue of Liberty stands empty of visitors after it closed due to an US government shutdown in New York, Oct 1, 2013. -- PHOTO: AFP
The Statue of Liberty stands empty of visitors after it closed due to an US government shutdown in New York, Oct 1, 2013. -- PHOTO: AFP
A closure sign is seen at the World War II memorial (with the Lincoln memorial in the distance) in Washington, DC, on Oct 1, 2013. -- PHOTO: AFP
A closure sign is seen at the World War II memorial (with the Lincoln memorial in the distance) in Washington, DC, on Oct 1, 2013. -- PHOTO: AFP
Tourists walk by a sign announcing that the Statue of Liberty is closed due to a US government shutdown in New York, Oct 1, 2013. -- PHOTO: AFP
Tourists walk by a sign announcing that the Statue of Liberty is closed due to a US government shutdown in New York, Oct 1, 2013. -- PHOTO: AFP
A US Park Ranger places a closed sign inside an information booth at the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall, Oct 1, 2013 in Washington, DC. -- PHOTO: AFP
A US Park Ranger places a closed sign inside an information booth at the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall, Oct 1, 2013 in Washington, DC. -- PHOTO: AFP
An employee at Z-Burger in Washington, DC, prepares food during the lunch hour rush Oct 1, 2013. -- PHOTO: AFP
An employee at Z-Burger in Washington, DC, prepares food during the lunch hour rush Oct 1, 2013. -- PHOTO: AFP
A protester holds a placard as she joins others in a demonstration in front of the US Capitol in Washington on Oct 1, 2013 urging Congress to pass a budget. -- PHOTO: AFP
A protester holds a placard as she joins others in a demonstration in front of the US Capitol in Washington on Oct 1, 2013 urging Congress to pass a budget. -- PHOTO: AFP
Protesters display placards during a demonstration in front of the US Capitol in Washington on Oct 1, 2013 urging Congress to pass the budget bill. -- PHOTO: AFP
Protesters display placards during a demonstration in front of the US Capitol in Washington on Oct 1, 2013 urging Congress to pass the budget bill. -- PHOTO: AFP
Protesters display placards during a demonstration in front of the US Capitol in Washington on Oct 1, 2013 urging Congress to pass the budget bill. -- PHOTO: AFP
Protesters display placards during a demonstration in front of the US Capitol in Washington on Oct 1, 2013 urging Congress to pass the budget bill. -- PHOTO: AFP
A US Capitol Police officer walks through the Rotunda of the US Capitol while the building was closed to tours on Oct 1, 2013 in Washington. -- PHOTO: AFP
A US Capitol Police officer walks through the Rotunda of the US Capitol while the building was closed to tours on Oct 1, 2013 in Washington. -- PHOTO: AFP
A woman views the Jefferson Memorial from behind barricades in Washington, DC, on Oct 1, 2013. -- PHOTO: AFP
A woman views the Jefferson Memorial from behind barricades in Washington, DC, on Oct 1, 2013. -- PHOTO: AFP
A view of a closed barber shop in the US Senate at the US Capitol on Oct 1, 2013 in Washington. -- PHOTO: AFP
A view of a closed barber shop in the US Senate at the US Capitol on Oct 1, 2013 in Washington. -- PHOTO: AFP
A view of a closed Senate cafeteria at the US Capitol on Oct 1, 2013 in Washington. The US government is in a forced shutdown after lawmakers failed to pass a budget on Tuesday. -- PHOTO: AFP
A view of a closed Senate cafeteria at the US Capitol on Oct 1, 2013 in Washington. The US government is in a forced shutdown after lawmakers failed to pass a budget on Tuesday. -- PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The first US government shutdown in nearly two decades put a choke hold on Washington on Tuesday, as the White House and Republicans dug in for an extended struggle with no way out in sight.

National monuments were barricaded, US war cemeteries in Europe closed, and hundreds of thousands of federal workers sent home without pay, after dawn revealed the wreckage of America's latest paralysing political crisis.

President Barack Obama accused conservatives in the House of Representatives of waging an "ideological crusade" by making government funding conditional on gutting his health reform law.

His top foe, House Speaker John Boehner meanwhile claimed Mr Obama was pursuing a "scorched earth" policy by refusing to negotiate with Republicans, as the rhetoric hit new heights and hopes for a swift end to the standoff faded.

The president was in feisty form at a White House event marking the rollout of a key portion of Obamacare, which turned into an extended taunt at Republicans for failing to halt implementation of the sweeping law.

"This Republican shutdown did not have to happen - I want every American to understand why it did happen," Mr Obama said.

"They have shut down the government over an ideological crusade to deny affordable healthcare to millions of Americans." It was the morning after on Capitol Hill, where late night brinkmanship Monday sent America into its first government shutdown in 17 years when the money ran out at midnight.

Mr Boehner, who effectively chose to side with the uproarious Tea Party faction of his party rather than risk his job by attempting to pass a straight funding resolution stripped of political poison pills, lit into the president.

"Washington Democrats have slammed the door on reopening the government by refusing to engage in bipartisan talks," he wrote in an opinion piece in USA Today.

"This is part of a larger pattern: the president's scorched-Earth policy of refusing to negotiate in bipartisan way on his health care law, current government funding, or the debt limit." So far at least, Mr Boehner was dancing on the trickiest political ground.

A Quinnipiac University poll found voters oppose the shutdown of the government as a way to derail Obamacare by a margin of 72 per cent to 22 per cent.

The New York Daily News tabloid had a more blunt summation: "House of Turds" its front page read, in a swipe at Republicans modelled on the hit Netflix political mini series House Of Cards. Thousands of Federal workers trekked into town only to clear their desks and to be told they were not "essential" to the running of the US government machine.

Young aides trooped out of the White House, leaving Mr Obama with only a skeleton crew on hand.

Perplexed tourists were turned away from monuments and museums on the National Mall secured behind barriers and tape reading "Police Line: Do not Cross." But one hardy group was made of sterner stuff - an ageing band of the so-called Greatest Generation showed up at the World War II memorial and refused to be denied entry.

Those visiting their dead comrades in France, Belgium, Italy and elsewhere were turned away, as funding dried up for American cemeteries in 20 corners of foreign fields.

Another symbol of hard won freedoms - The Statue of Liberty in New York - was off limits to disappointed tourists.

"The Statue of Liberty is such a strong symbol for so many people. It is America, it symbolises freedom, jobs, a government you can trust," said Bea Mueller, left in tears after she travelled from Seattle to tour the monument, only to find it closed.

Other government-funded bodies seen as doing urgent work, like the military and border patrol, were kept at full strength, but the Pentagon was due to stand down almost half of its 800,000 civilian employees.

Under the serene Capitol Dome, warring lawmakers, exhausted by the political theatrics of Monday night, stirred as the shutdown moved into its 18th hour.

But early hopes that a compromise would emerge once the shock of the shutdown had hit proved premature.

Republicans in the House and Senate geared up for an effort to pass small bills funding popular parts of the government, including Veterans benefits and museums.

The plan appeared to be an attempt to shame Democrats who say they will not negotiate with "a gun to their head" with the government closed.

"That proposal shows the utter lack of seriousness that we're seeing from Republicans," said White House spokesman Jay Carney.

Democratic Senate Majority leader Harry Reid added: "We won't be forced to choose between parks and cancer research... or the FBI." Democratic tactics were designed to thwart every Republican attempt for a facing saving exit and to force an eventual climbdown from Mr Boehner.

Obama warned that the shutdown could have disastrous consequences for the sluggish economic recovery.

"We may not know the full impact of this Republican shutdown for some time," he said.

"We know that the last time Republicans shut down the government in 1996, it hurt our economy. And unlike 1996, our economy is still recovering from the worst recession in generations." To press his case, Mr Obama was due to meet CEOs of some top Wall Street firms at the White House on Wednesday.