For the first time since December 1995, the federal government is in a shutdown. Congress failed to pass spending bills to fund government activities by the Sept. 30 deadline. The main point of contention between House Republicans and Democrats is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—more commonly known as “Obamacare.”
Generally, the Democratic party supports the act, believing it expands access to care and lowers overall healthcare costs. The Republican party believes it will hurt employers and overreaches the federal government’s authority. The Affordable Care Act itself does not directly affect the federal government’s budget; however, the Republican majority in the House and a Democratic Senate cannot agree on certain provisions of the spending bill regarding the health care act. A divided Congress is trying to remedy the situation, but, in the meantime, many federal programs and agencies are closed and over 800,000 employees are furloughed, or placed on unpaid leave.
Both senators and representatives are required by law to be paid during the shutdown, but some members of both parties have decided to either refuse or donate their paychecks as a sign of solidarity with the American public.
On Oct. 5, Congress made a rare bipartisan decision to ensure backpay for furloughed employees, but they won’t receive any compensation until a decision is made.
All federal programs and jobs are divided into two categories: excepted and non-excepted. Those that are deemed essential or “excepted” will continue to function at least partially. Agencies that are a permanent part of the law, receive multi-year funding or have independent sources of funding will remain open. Those that ensure national security or protect life and property are also considered excepted.
The parts of the government that are affected range from the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) to the panda cam at the National Zoo. In fact, the zoo itself is closed, along with all national parks and museums. The Library of Congress, NASA and the National Parks Service websites display nothing more than a sentence or two referencing the shutdown and direct visitors to the Department of the Interior’s home page. Many of the databases students need for research are no longer accessible. Ironically, the Affordable Care Act is largely unaffected because it is funded independently of the congressional budget.
The last shutdown during the Clinton administration in 1995 lasted a record-breaking 21 days. According to economist Brian Kessler of Moody’s Analytics, a shutdown lasting three to four weeks such as that would cost the economy about $55 billion. With the debt ceiling approaching—Congress must vote to raise the debt limit by mid-October—the shutdown could reduce consumer confidence and cut economic growth.
For a more comprehensive list of programs and how the shutdown affects them, visit www.cnn.com/interactive/2013/09/politics/government-shutdown-impact/.