A U.S. government shutdown amid a congressional dispute over spending and immigration has forced scores of federal agencies and outposts to close their doors and triggered furloughs for Air Force civilian employees but won’t keep Lady Liberty shackled.
The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, closed since the government shut down Friday, will reopen for visitors Monday, with New York state picking up the tab for the federal workers who operate them, the state’s Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo, said Sunday.
The sites had been turning away visitors due to what the National Park Service described as ‘a lapse in appropriations,’ a bureaucratic term for a lack of money. In Philadelphia, crowds of tourists were told Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were signed, and the Liberty Bell were closed.
The shuttered icons were some of the easiest-to-spot impacts of the partial government closure. Funds ran out at midnight Friday, leaving 48 hours before the most dramatic effect-the furloughing of nearly 1 million federal employees-takes place.
Cuomo said the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are vital to the state’s tourism industry and couldn’t remain closed. He said the state will spend about $65,000 a day to keep them open, with the revenue gained more than offsetting the costs.
Martin Luther King Jr.’s childhood home, historic Ebenezer Baptist Church and the visitor center at MLK National Historic Site in Atlanta were closed. And Big Cypress National Preserve, Everglades National Park and other federally managed natural areas in Florida were partially closed.
But the shutdown wasn’t knocking Old Ironsides out of commission. The USS Constitution, the world’s oldest commissioned warship, was to remain open to tourists during the shutdown at the Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston.
The Interior Department said national parks and other public lands will remain as accessible as possible. That position is a change from previous shutdowns, when most parks were closed and became high-profile symbols of dysfunction.
Spokeswoman Heather Swift said the American public-especially veterans who come to the nation’s capital-should find war memorials and open-air parks available to visitors. Swift said many national parks and wildlife refuges nationwide will also be open with limited access when possible.
She said public roads that already are open are likely to remain open, though services that require staffing and maintenance such as campgrounds, full-service restrooms and concessions won’t be operating. Backcountry lands and culturally sensitive sites are likely to be restricted or closed, she said.
Many State Department operations will continue in a shutdown. Passport and visa processing, which are largely self-funded by consumer fees, will not shut down. The agency’s main headquarters in Washington, in consultation with the nearly 300 embassies, consulates and other diplomatic missions around the world, will draw up lists of nonessential employees who will be furloughed.
A department spokesman said nearly 90% of Homeland Security employees are considered essential and will continue to perform their duties during a government shutdown. That means most Customs and Border Protection and Transportation Security Administration workers will stay on the job.
More than half-34,600 of the Department of Transportation’s 55,100 employees will continue working during a shutdown. The bulk of those staying on the job work for the Federal Aviation Administration, which operates the nation’s air traffic control system.
But certification of new aircraft will be limited, and processing of airport construction grants, training of new controllers, registration of planes, air traffic control modernization research and development, and issuance of new pilot licenses and medical certificates will stop.