Government shutdown 2013: Locals react to looming shutdown

WASHINGTON (WJLA) - On a sunny Monday in D.C., the feeling among federal workers is gloomy and gray.

Brandi Johnson, a USDA program manager from Chantilly, says the feeling in the office as a government shutdown looms is one of uncertainty.

"We don't know what's going on, we don't know what's going to happen,” she says.

The confusion only gets worse as the stalemate between politicians continues right up the street.

They get up there and push their own agendas and have their own agendas and meanwhile people like us are suffering,” Johnson says.

An estimated 800,000 federal workers would feel the impact of a shutdown. So-called essential employees, military personnel, mail carriers and food inspectors would continue working during a shutdown.

But non-essential employees, service workers, landscapers and museum staff would face furloughs.

George Washington professor Lara Brown says that as Congress jumps from crisis to crisis, from the debt ceiling, sequestration and now the shutdown, federal workers become more and more disillusioned.

"The politics is terribly frustrating because you consider yourself a professional and you wish politicians were as well,” Brown says.

Kevin Bunn, a contractor who commutes to D.C. from Virginia Beach, isn't holding back.

“I think the inability of our government to compromise is a bunch of BS," Bunn says.

Later that evening on Monday night, tourists joined locals in a mood of gloom and doom.

The Lincoln Memorial is one of the most popular monuments in D.C. – especially at night. It’s usually open 24 hours a day, but the threat of a government shutdown brought one Alexandria couple here tonight.

"My husband and I tonight just packed a picnic and had dinner in a park, and we won't be able to do that tomorrow night or the next night," said Hege.

The looming Monday night deadline prompted another Seattle couple to get all of their sightseeing done on Monday, too.

"We went to all the Smithsonian museums," said Doug. "There's a good chance they won't be open for a while...And we got the last tour of the Capitol."

The National Park Service says a shutdown would mean all 401 of its parks – facilities and monuments – would be closed. The Smithsonian museums along the National Mall would also be closed.

The scene is similar to what it looked like during the last government shutdown in 1995. And unless there is an eleventh-hour deal, it could look like this again come Tuesday.

The public is hoping cooler heads will ultimately prevail.

"I encourage them to work together -- that's what we elected them to do, to be a unified front to run our country," said Hege.

Businesses could be hurt

The tourism and hospitality industries, which are huge in Washington, are bracing for a sudden drop in income. Food trucks may shut down because they won’t have enough business.

This includes the commercial strip of Pennsylvania Avenue Southeast that caters to Capitol Hill.

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, who previously declared all D.C. government employees essential, says he's determined to keep the city open - if necessary digging into its contingency cash fund.

"We have a little over two weeks of cash to be able to support the government, so right now my position is the government stays open,” he said.

The hotels association says members are getting nervous. Also nervous are bussers and souvenir sellers who depend on the museums.

Long time D.C. area economist Stephen Fuller says a shutdown will have a negative ripple effect that worsens with time:

"It's like a snow day you the first day doesn't matter show much because you get up and you go to work the next day and you work real hard and you it up," Fuller says.