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story.lead_photo.caption Visitors at the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock learn Saturday that the center’s museum is closed because of the partial federal shutdown, but the gift shop and restaurant in the center were open. - Photo by Mitchell PE Masilun

Members of the Arkansas congressional delegation waited in vain Saturday in Washington for congressional leaders and the White House to resolve their budgetary impasse.

With no votes scheduled and no solutions in sight, they began heading home for Christmas, promising to return as soon as they are summoned.

Flights to Arkansas are possible during the partial government shutdown because Transportation Security Administration screeners and Federal Aviation Administration air traffic controllers have been deemed essential federal employees.

Lawmakers say they'll be monitoring developments, and they'll have their luggage ready in case they need to fly back to Washington on short notice.

"I'll spend the holiday on alert, ready to go back if necessary," said U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, a Republican from Jonesboro.

He isn't expecting Congress to act before Thursday, though.

[RELATED: Sides in D.C. dig in as wall divides them]

Crawford flew out of Washington on Saturday morning after it became clear that no votes would be taken on measures to halt the shutdown that started at midnight Friday.

"I'm going to try and unplug and spend time with my family like most people will, but I'm ready to [return] at a moment's notice and get back to work and try to resolve this issue."

U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman, a Republican from Hot Springs, boarded a flight to Arkansas on Saturday afternoon.

"The Senate didn't look like they were going to get anything done, so I thought I'd go home," Westerman said, during a layover in Atlanta. "As soon as I get the message that we're going to do something, I'll be heading back to D.C. Whenever that is."

The financial procrastination on Capitol Hill is a sore spot for Westerman.

"I wish we could get the funding wrapped up in September every year. If you look at the big picture, that's when it's supposed to happen," he said.

Asked if he relished the prospects of a Capitol Hill Christmas, Westerman said, "Not particularly."

"I'd much rather be in Arkansas with my family than in D.C. -- whether it's Christmas or any other time of the year," he said.

U.S. Rep. French Hill stayed in Washington on Saturday, pausing to take in a basketball contest between the UALR Trojans and the Georgetown Hoyas.

The visitors lost 102-94 in overtime.

"It was a very exciting game. The Trojans played the Hoyas just point for point," the Republican from Little Rock said.

Hill said he plans to fly home to Arkansas this morning. He'll return to Washington once a vote has been scheduled, he said.

For now the ball is in the Democrats' court, Hill suggested.

"Just as soon as possible and practical, I hope that the Senate Democrats will come up with a plan that at least 10 of them will support to find middle ground and get the government reopened," he said.

The budget standoff was already being felt Saturday in Arkansas, including at some of the state's tourist attractions.

The partial government shutdown has affected nonessential government employees in several agencies, including the National Park Service and the National Archives.

The Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock will mostly close until the shutdown ends, but its restaurant and gift shop will stay open and offer "shutdown specials," officials said Saturday.

The Central High School National Historic Site in Little Rock was closed Saturday, with signs taped on each door telling visitors that it was shut down "because of a lapse in federal appropriations."

Among those disappointed to find the doors locked was Oddette Adderley, a 53-year-old history teacher from Miami who stopped there as part of a driving tour of historic sites with her 21-year-old daughter. They drove from Memphis on Saturday and learned upon arrival in Little Rock that they couldn't get into the museum, which sits just northeast of Central High School.

Adderley said she knew about the shutdown, but it "wasn't connected to me that this was a federal property until we got here."

She said she's taught about Central High School and the Little Rock Nine in her classes, and had looked forward to seeing the museum and picking up some souvenirs from its gift shop.

"I'm disgusted," Adderley said, sitting in her SUV outside. "I'm beyond disappointed. This is a momentous thing for me."

Elsewhere in Arkansas, Hot Springs National Park is set to remain accessible to visitors, with some changes. Emergency and rescue services will be limited, the park said in a statement, and all park programs have been canceled. National Park Service-provided visitor services -- including restrooms, trash collection and maintenance -- won't be offered.

At the Clinton Center, the permanent and temporary exhibits will be closed until the shutdown ends.

The center said the restaurant, 42 Bar and Table, will offer daily specials. The special Saturday was a grilled cheeseburger -- a burger pressed between two grilled cheese sandwiches. The gift store in the center's lobby will offer a 42 percent discount on most items.

The center is one of Little Rock's top tourist attractions and has drawn more than 4.5 million visitors since it opened in 2004.

The center, restaurant and gift shop will be closed on Christmas Day and New Year's Day.

At least one federally funded program in the state won't be affected by the shutdown. The Arkansas Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program said its services and benefits will go on as usual.

A Section on 12/23/2018

Print Headline: State D.C. leaders tire of wait, head home; shutdown felt in Arkansas

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  • RBear
    December 23, 2018 at 7:02 a.m.

    "I wish we could get the funding wrapped up in September every year. If you look at the big picture, that's when it's supposed to happen," he said. Well Rep. Westerman, you might talk to your good buddy Steve Womack who is the chair of the House Budget Committee.
    ...
    "Just as soon as possible and practical, I hope that the Senate Democrats will come up with a plan that at least 10 of them will support to find middle ground and get the government reopened," (French Hill) said. Hmmm. You think some Republicans should be in that compromising mood instead of it being all on Democrats? The way Hill lays it out, Republicans don't plan to compromise any. The current bill includes wall funding which the MAJORITY of the country does not want. Take that out and this thing can move forward.

  • Nodmcm
    December 23, 2018 at 7:18 a.m.

    In this entire article, the word "Mexico" is not found once. That is quite surprising, since Republicans PROMISED Arkansans that we would not have to pay for the wall. Over and over, ad nauseum, we heard the question at raucous Republican political rallies, "Who will pay for the wall?" The answer, every time, was not "Arkansas families," or "Arkansas taxpayers," or "American taxpayers." The answer was "MEXICO." Now Republicans crawfish, and they don't even mention Mexico when they talk about wall funding. So now the crowd screams, "Who will pay for the wall?" Republican congressman French Hill screams, "Arkansas working folks."
    WHO WILL PAY FOR THE WALL? ARKANSAS FAMILIES! says French Hill.
    WHO WILL PAY FOR THE WALL? ARKANSAS WORKERS! says French Hill.
    WHO WILL PAY FOR THE WALL? ARKANSAS TAXPAYERS! says French Hill.

  • wolfman
    December 23, 2018 at 8:11 a.m.

    Place the blame all on the democrats. The repubs want to spend billions on a wall when there are more important issues the money could be spent on. like education, veterans..infrastructure (remember that trump promise)..the homeless. and wasnt the wall suppose to be paid for by mexico? HAHA gotta love it. But yet the repubs still stand behind tRUMP. and didn't trump say a couple of years ago a shut down in the POTUS's fault and he should be fired for it. yea tRUMP forgot about that huh. repubs are such hypocrites.

  • Waitjustaminute
    December 23, 2018 at 9:03 a.m.

    Same tired arguments, different day. Supporters of the wall don't care who pays for it; most of them probably never took "Mexico will pay for it" serious to begin with. And our government spends 5.7 billion every 10 hours of every day, so you liberals can stop pretending to be concerned about the cost. There's never been a big government spending spree liberals didn't love - unless it was something Republicans wanted, and then it's suddenly too expensive.
    Cut out the billions in government transfers to insurance companies, make everyone pay the real cost of Obamacare, and we can build the wall and still save money.

  • jwheelii
    December 23, 2018 at 10:57 a.m.

    You haven't done your job. No vacations or holidays, and no pay until you complete those constitutional tasks that are solely your responsibility. You may play the blame game all day long, but the fact is that, collectively, you have failed the American people.

  • 23cal
    December 23, 2018 at 12:05 p.m.


    "If there is a shutdown, I think it would be a tremendously negative mark on the President of the United States. He's the one who has to get people together. I hear the Democrats are gonna be blamed and the Republicans are gonna be blamed. I actually think the president would be blamed." Trump, April, 2011

    "I mean, serious problems always start at the top, and they have to get solved from the top, and the president's the leader, and he's gotta get everybody in a room, and he's gotta lead." Trump, 2013

    "Now the obstructionist Democrats would like us not to do it, but believe me if we have to shut down government, we're building that wall." Trump, 2017

    "When the government is, you know, they talk about the government shut down, they're gonna be talking about the president of the United States. Who was the president at that time? So, I really think the pressure is on the president." Trump,teleconference with Fox News.

    "A shutdown falls on the president's lack of leadership. I mean problems start from the top and they have to get solved from the top. A shutdown means the president is weak." - Trump 2013

    "I’ll tell you what: I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck. I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down — I’m not going to blame you for it,”- Trump 2018

    However, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), gives some of the credit for the shutdown to Fox and Friends and to Rush Limbaugh.
    Yeah. These unelected loony tunes are running the country......and running it right into the ground.

  • whydoyouask
    December 23, 2018 at 12:40 p.m.

    They should all have to stay there on site until they get it done. They shouldn’t get to go home. That is their job. Quit trying to blame other people.

  • Waitjustaminute
    December 23, 2018 at 12:56 p.m.

    I don't care if they go home or not. But they shouldn't be getting their pay checks direct deposited. Cut off Congress' salaries and there will never be another 'shutdown.'

  • mrcharles
    December 23, 2018 at 3:21 p.m.

    MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL.

  • jwheelii
    December 23, 2018 at 4:56 p.m.

    Yes!!!

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