The Obama administration warned Wednesday that a federal shutdown would undermine the economic recovery, delay pay to U.S. troops fighting in three wars, slow the processing of tax returns and limit small business loans and government-backed mortgages during peak home buying season.
The dire message, delivered two days before the federal government's spending authority expires, appeared aimed at jolting congressional Republicans into a budget compromise. Billions of dollars apart, congressional negotiators were working to strike a deal by Friday to avert a shutdown by setting spending limits through the end of September. The last such shutdown took place 15 years ago and lasted 21 days.
President Barack Obama telephoned House Speaker John Boehner on Wednesday, and Boehner's office said the speaker told Obama he was hopeful a deal could be reached.
As the talks continued, the White House sought to put the prospect of a shutdown in terms people would care about, warning even that the beloved National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade in the nation's capital would be wiped out. The Smithsonian Institution and national parks around the country would also be closed.
A shutdown would come at an especially busy time for the Smithsonian. The Cherry Blossom Festival, which concludes this weekend, draws many tourists to an area near the museums. The Smithsonian counts about 3 million visits each April and has already sold 23,000 IMAX movie and lunch combos to school groups for the month.