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U.S. government shutdown in effect, first time in 17 years

Republicans in Congress refused to endorse a spending bill unless it delayed the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, the law giving health insurance to poorer Americans, which starts to take effect on Oct. 1. Ahead of the House vote, Obama said Congress can avoid a shutdown by passing a straight budget bill without “extraneous and controversial demands.”

House Republican leaders won approval, in a vote of 228 to 201, “of a new plan to tie further government spending to a one-year delay in a requirement that individuals buy health insurance,” as the New York Times writes.

Then, with almost no debate, the Senate struck down the House health care provisions and sent the stopgap spending bill right back where it came from, devoid of policy prescriptions. Earlier in the day, the Senate had taken less than 25 minutes to discuss and then discard a weekend budget proposal by the House Republicans.

To put this simply: Many sectors of the federal government need to be funded each year in order to operate normally. If Congress can’t agree on how to fund them, they have to close down. And, as of 12:01 a.m. ET Tuesday, Congress can’t agree on how to fund them.

On Monday, President Barack Obama said children, seniors, and women would be “hamstrung” if the government were to shut down.

“The shutdown will have a very real impact on real people right away,” he said.

What could be most crippling to communities across America are the 800,000 federal employees who will have to go home on unpaid leave. This temporary lay-off truly hurts the U.S. economy – experts predict a 0.32 percentage points drop in growth in the fourth quarter. “That assumes only a two week shut-down: If it drags into a month, fourth-quarter growth could be reduced by as much as 1.4 percentage points,” this report adds.

All national parks would be closed, as well as the Smithsonian museums, the National Zoo in Washington and the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island in New York. Visitors enjoying overnight campgrounds or other park facilities would be given 48 hours to make alternate arrangements and leave the park.

NBC News writes: “A small number of Head Start programs, about 20 out of 1,600 nationally, would feel the impact right away. The federal Administration for Children and Families says grants expiring about Oct. 1 would not be renewed. Over time more programs would be affected.”

Homeowners could be affected too. NBC News adds low-to-moderate incomes borrowers and first-time homebuyers seeking government-backed mortgages could face delays during the shutdown.

It will be business as usual for many essential services: Federal air traffic controllers would likely remain on the job and airport screeners would keep working too. Federal inspectors wouldn’t stop enforcing safety rules.

The White House will be affected, too. “There will be reductions in staff, we’ll have a skeletal staff,” press secretary Jay Carney said during his daily briefing. “It will be an extremely lean operation if this comes to pass.”
“You have this group that keeps saying somehow if you’re not with them, you’re for Obamacare,” said Representative Devin Nunes, Republican of California. “If you’re not with exactly their plan, exactly what they want to do, then you’re somehow for Obamacare, and it’s just getting a little old.”

“It’s moronic to shut down the government over this,” he continued.

Americans will likely remember the last government shutdown: In 1995, Bill Clinton’s Democrats and Newt Gingrich’s Republicans sparred over major issues such as the future of Medicare, tax cuts, aid for the poor, the budget deficit. In fact, during that period two government shutdowns struck the U.S., for six days and 21 days.

Digital Journal will update this article as new information becomes available.

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