A government shutdown, the first in 17 years, officially began Tuesday morning as a deadlocked Congress failed to reach an agreement on a short-term funding measure by the 12:01 a.m. deadline, reports NBC on Tuesday Oct. 1. Close to 800,000 federal employees are waking up today to find out their jobs, and lives, are on hold.
Even before the midnight deadline had passed, it was clear that the House and the Senate were not going to get a deal done by the fiscal year deadline. An eleventh hour memo from Office of Management and Budget director Sylvia Burwell to government executives said to get ready, because the lights are about to go dark.
“Agencies should now execute plans for an orderly shutdown due to the absence of appropriations,” Burwell wrote. “We urge Congress to act quickly to pass a Continuing Resolution to provide a short-term bridge that ensures sufficient time to pass a budget for the remainder of the fiscal year, and to restore the operation of critical public services and programs that will be impacted by a lapse in appropriations.”
Both sides exchanged proposals, but the plans were quickly rejected. At the heart of the impasse is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare. The GOP-led House passed its third measure late Monday night that would have kept the government open, but the agreement called on Senate Democrats to hamstring Obamacare, President Obama’s significant health care bill and the biggest regulatory overhaul of the country's healthcare system since the passage of Medicare / Medicaid in the mid 60s.
House Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had strong words for the GOP, calling them “insane” for their repeated attempts to target Obamacare in a government funding bill.
“Albert Einstein said when defining insanity as follows, quote, ‘Doing the same thing over and over again and thinking you're going to get a different result,’” Reid said. “Einstein was a genius, but it doesn't take a genius to figure out that the proof is watching the House Republicans, because they've lost their minds.”
The Senate recessed until 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, and Reid promised to immediately table – or kill – the first House plan that comes their way if it involves major changes to Obamacare.
“We will not go to conference with a gun to our head,” Reid said.
With the shutdown now in effect, the federal government could cost the U.S. economy approximately $1 billion a week in lost pay as workers across agencies are furloughed indefinitely.
Yahoo! Finance says the total economic impact could be 10 times greater than just determining the wages lost by federal workers. Economist Brian Kessler of Moody's Analytics estimates that a three to four week shutdown will cost the economy about $55 billion.
“That would mean that the economic impact from a month-long shutdown would be roughly equal to the combined disruption caused by Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy, not counting the property damage that accompanied those storms,” says Yahoo.
The shuttering of government services means that a dividing line has been drawn between federal offices that are “excepted” out of the freeze and those that are “non-excepted.”
Those in the first category have been determined to play an “essential role,” and will carry on in their employment, although their pay may be delayed. The others, considered non-essential, will be on furlough until Congress decides to fund the government.
Those who are furloughed are absent their pay, although Congress may decide to reimburse employees for their time off after the shutdown is over, as it did after the 1995 shutdown that lasted 28 days.
Here’s a breakdown as to what services will be affected:
- USPS: Mail delivery will continue to function as normal. The U.S. Postal Service receives no tax dollars from the government for their day-to-day operations; they raise money internally from stamps and other postal fees to cover their costs.
- Social Security and Medicare benefits will continue uninterrupted.
- National parks and Smithsonian museums that are operated and funded by the government would be closed.
- The Equal Opportunity Commission, the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission would be all shut down.
- The U.S. Courts would remain open and available.
- The Department of Defense and all active military will remain on the job.
- The Department of Veterans Affairs will be mostly open, since they are funded through internal appropriations.
- The Departments of Education, Interior, Justice, Labor, Commerce, Energy and Transportations are all on partial shutdown.
- The Department of Homeland Security and the Environmental Protection Agency are on partial shutdown.
- The IRS is closed. All audit functions, paper tax return processing, examination of returns and collections are ceased. Call sites and IRS walk-in facilities are closed.
- The USDA will remain mostly open.
CNN is carrying an updated list of the agencies affected.