How can the government shutdown?! What is a furlough? Since the federal government entered a shutdown Tuesday, October 1st, 800,000 federal employees have been on unpaid leave, government offices closed and drug trials stopped. How does this affect you?
Each year the house and senate have to agree on federal spending and priorities. But this year they haven't learned to work together well enough to figure out how to appropriate federal funds, and so we have entered the second government shutdown in recent history.
USA Today's FAQ list, is a practical guide to how this will affect you and your business. But let's start with the basics first:
Question: How did Congress get in this situation?
Answer: In a word, partisanship. Differences between Democrats and Republicans are deepening over virtually every issue, and federal spending is the biggest one of all.
A temporary spending measure -- a continuing resolution, or CR -- approved by the GOP-controlled House on Sept. 20 would have kept the government running until mid-December but would have cut funding to implement the Affordable Care Act.
The Democratic-majority Senate rejected that plan, designed to gut President Barack Obama's signature health care law. On Friday the Senate approved its own CR that included money for the law known as "Obamacare."
House leaders are meeting over the weekend to consider their next move. If the House modifies the Senate CR as Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has promised, then the Senate has to approve the amended version before it reaches the White House.
It's unclear if and when those legislative steps will be fulfilled. Short answer: Things remain in limbo.
Q: Will the entire government come to a standstill if a deal isn't reached?
A: No. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other "entitlement" programs that are funded automatically will escape the worst effects. But government agencies that rely on yearly congressional appropriations will be hit a lot harder. That includes giant agencies such as the Pentagon and smaller ones such as the National Park Service
Q: What will be the impact of a shutdown?
A: All national parks and federal wildlife refuges would be closed for the duration of the shutdown, the Interior Department said Friday. About 9 million visitors were turned away from parks, museums and monuments run by the National Park Service in the mid-1990s, the last time the government shut down temporarily.
About 40 percent of the nation's 2 million federal workers would be furloughed. Though Congress has approved restoring lost pay retroactively in the past, there's no guarantee lawmakers will do that this time.
About 1.4 million active-duty military personnel must remain on the job but won't get paid until a new deal is signed into law. Active National Guard units also must continue to work. Most civilian employees of the Defense Department face furloughs.
Some other possibilities: Delays in processing tens of thousands of passport and visa applications, issuing gun permits, continuing U.S. bankruptcy court cases and approving mortgage applications.
Many congressional and White House staffers also may have to stay home. But members of Congress and the president are exempt from furloughs.
The government has also set up via a splash page, a guide to dealing with this unusual situation. Services to continue include:
- Social Security beneficiaries will continue receiving checks.
- The U.S. Postal Service will keep delivering mail.
- Active military will continue serving.
- Air traffic controllers, prison guards, and border patrol agents will remain on the job.
- NASA Mission Control will continue supporting astronauts serving on the Space Station
The list of Services affected by area (BBC News).
Let's see if we learn from history and start learning how to share and get along. Afterall, it's everyone's money their playing with.