Government shutdown would close Liberty Bell, Independence Historical Park

A large swath of the U.S. government will shut down Tuesday unless Congress agrees to a last-minute budget plan. Hours before a midnight deadline, the Senate shot down a House proposal that would tie additional spending to a delay of the Affordable Care Act.

Philadelphia’s Independence National Historical Park, which includes the popular Liberty Bell, would not be open for business if a partial shutdown went into effect.

Jane Cowley, the park’s public affairs officer, said an estimated 10,000 people visit the park each day.

“There’s no question that the resources here at Independence National Historical Park are one of the largest tourist draws to Philadelphia,” she said.

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Cowley, along with 185 other park employees, would be told to stay home Tuesday if Congress failed to hash out a deal.

That’s not the only service that would be put on hold. Terry Gillen, the city’s director of federal affairs, said it would be “difficult, if not impossible” to obtain a passport or visa if a shutdown happened.

She also said first-time homebuyers who are looking to get government-backed mortgages could run into delays.

And some local programs receiving government grants could be affected.

“We just don’t know if getting a grant renewed is considered essential,” said Gillen. “This all depends on who is deemed to be an essential government employee and who’s deemed to be non-essential. And that’s what we’re waiting for the feds to tell us.”

Residents would keep getting Social Security and Medicare benefits, Gillen said. Food stamps, also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, would continue to be available.

Holli Senior, a spokeswoman for Pennsylvania’s health department, said the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, or WIC, would still operate here in the short term if a shutdown occurred.

The Philadelphia School District said the city’s Head Start programs would not be affected unless a shutdown dragged on for several months.

Victoria Lupica, a spokeswoman at the Philadelphia International Airport, said flights would not be impacted. Air traffic controllers would remain on the job, she said.

And the Affordable Care Act’s new health insurance exchanges are still scheduled to open Tuesday.

Marilyn Sherry, a Maine resident, visited the Independence National Historical Park Monday. If a partial shutdown takes place, she won’t blame only Republicans or Democrats.

“I blame all of Congress, frankly,” she said. “I think it’s too bad that Congress will be paid while the rest of the government employees aren’t.”

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