“It is now midnight and the great government of the United States is now closed.”
New York Representative Louise Slaughter’s words concluded the session of Congress Monday evening, after Senators and Representatives failed to come up with a plan to renew funding for the federal government. Members of the House remained in discussion past 1 a.m., but they left disappointed shortly thereafter.
Beginning Tuesday, Oct. 1, the first government shutdown in 17 years has taken effect. About 800,000 federal workers have been furloughed, with only those employees considered “essential” reporting to work. Essential functions include air traffic controllers, Border Patrol and the military. The post office and Federal Reserve will also remain in operation, as they are independently funded. And of course Congress and the president will continue to go to work – hopefully with the goal of coming up with a resolution to get the government up and running again. The essential employees still reporting to work arelikely to see their paychecks delayed; however, all active-duty military members will continue to be paid throughout the shutdown.
Nonessential functions of the federal government include the running of national parks and museums, NASA, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and a majority of employees in the Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Labor, Interior, Energy, Health and Human Services, Commerce and Treasury.
One government function that will remain in effect is the initiation of Obamacare. Tuesday marks the first day individuals and businesses can begin enrolling in the new health insurance exchange under the Affordable Care Act. However, users attempting to be among the first to sign up experienced a myriad of glitches, errors and delays with the website.
Debate over the Affordable Care Act is in large part responsible for the government shutdown. House Republicans wanted to delay the individual mandate for one year in exchange for agreeing to fund the government, but President Obama and Senate Democrats refused to make such a negotiation.
Obama made it clear he would not negotiate with the House about Obamacare, saying he would not allow “one party controlling one chamber in Congress” to threaten default in order to “get 100 percent of what they want.” House Republicans argue that they have already attempted three separate proposals to make changes or delay Obamacare, all of which died in the Senate. With neither side seeming to be ready to budge on the issue of Obamacare, it is unclear how government leaders will agree to fund the government, especially considering there hasn’t been an official federal budget since 2007.