by Niamh Doyle
The nation is buzzing with talk of the government shutdown that became official on Oct. 1. Congress was alive with debate up until midnight of that fateful Tuesday on Capitol Hill, when they were supposed to have come up with a budget plan to continue funding the federal government. Unfortunately, no such conclusion was reached, as a breach between the Democrat and Republican parties rendered both sides incapable of agreeing on the appropriate action to take.
The Congressional Budget is a routine piece of legislature passed annually that dictates the national spending for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins on Oct. 1. Though normally considered a standard procedure for Congress, this year’s budgetary affairs could not be decided due to the raging debate between Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives concerning the Affordable Care Act, more commonly referred to as “Obamacare”.
The right-wing has opposed Obama’s healthcare plan since its conception in 2010, as evidenced by the documented forty attempts by the Republican party to repeal the legislation. Because of this, the Republican’s used the annual Congressional Budget as leverage to propose a delay of Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Republican house speaker John Boehner has actively refused to put forward any budget plan that does not halt Obamacare for a year. This, in Republicans’ eyes, would shift the law to a more central topic of debate for the upcoming 2014 midterms – increasing the chances of the law being repealed. The house Democrats and the president have declined any opportunity to compromise on the issue, however, and this impasse drove the Congress to a standstill concerning the annual budget. In lieu of a national spending budget, the government has been forced to shut down certain “nonessential” branches until a conclusion can be reached.
Eight-hundred-thousand government jobs have been laid off for the time being, veterans’ disability claims will not be decided, national parks have closed down, and federal websites will cease to run until the reopening of much of the government. Health and safety programs have been stopped, small businesses and tourism are taking a considerable hit, and disability benefits could be interrupted. Essential branches such as the Postal Service, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, however, will not be affected by the shutdown.
The last time the US saw a government shutdown was under the Clinton Administration at the end of 1995 and early into 1996, when a 28-day shutdown was the result of a standoff between Democratic President Clinton and Republican Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich. This shutdown cost the government a total of 2.1 billion in today’s dollars. Though not an entirely uncommon affair–the United States having seen seventeen government shutdowns since 1976–the effects of such a phenomenon have proven to be detrimental to the American economy.
With added national stress concerning the debt-ceiling, Americans worry that the government has neither the time nor the money to spare for an issue as conventional as the annual fiscal budget. Republicans and Democrats alike stand firmly on their respective sides of the debate, with Republicans refusing to back down on the issue, leading the nation further down the path of political chaos.
(Sources: BBC, CBS, New York Times, Washington Post)