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The impact of a Government Shutdown.
September 30, 2013 at 9:48 pm #180172
Karen RaineyParticipantIt’s been 17 years since the federal government last faced a partial shutdown because Congress and the president couldn’t agree on a spending bill. A lot has changed in that time, leaving federal employees, citizens and even government decision-makers confused about what a shutdown would mean.
Every shutdown is different. The politics that cause them are different. Because of technology and struc…tural overhauls, the way the government functions has changed since 1996. Much of what will happen is unknown.
Here’s what we do know about Tuesday’s looming shutdown:
1. What causes a shutdown? Under the Constitution, Congress must pass laws to spend money. If Congress can’t agree on a spending bill — or if, in the case of the Clinton-era shutdowns, the president vetoes it — the government does not have the legal authority to spend money.
2. What’s a continuing resolution? Congress used to spend money by passing a budget first, then 12 separate appropriations bills. That process has broken down, and Congress uses a stopgap continuing resolution, or CR, that maintains spending at current levels for all or part of the year.
4. What is a “clean” CR? A continuing resolution without policy changes.3. Why can’t Congress agree? The Republican-controlled House has passed a spending bill that maintains spending levels but does not provide funding to implement the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. The Democratic Senate insists that the program be fully funded and that Congress pass what they call a “clean” CR.
5. Why is this happening now? The government runs on a fiscal year from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30. Shutdowns can happen at other times of the year when Congress passes a partial-year spending bill.
6. Could government agencies ignore the shutdown? Under a federal law known as the Anti-Deficiency Act, it can be a felony to spend taxpayer money without an appropriation from Congress.
7. When would a shutdown begin? When the fiscal year ends at midnight Monday. Most federal workers would report to work Tuesday, but unless they’re deemed “essential,” they would work no more than four hours on shutdown-related activities before being furloughed.
8. When would the shutdown end? Immediately after the president signs a spending bill. As a practical matter, it could be noon the following day before most government offices that were shut down would reopen their doors.
9. How many times has the government shut down in the past? Since 1977, there have been 17 shutdowns, according to the Congressional Research Service.
10. How long do shutdowns usually last? Most last no more than three days. Some last less than a day.
11. When was the longest shutdown in history? The longest was also the most recent: from Dec. 16, 1995, through Jan. 5, 1996. That’s 21 days.
12. Would this shutdown be different from those in the 1990s? Yes. When the 1995 shutdown started, Congress had already passed three of 13 appropriations bills. (They funded military construction, agriculture, and energy and water projects.) Also, more government services are automated.
THE DEBT LIMIT
13. What’s the difference between a shutdown and a debt crisis? In a shutdown, the government lacks the legal authority to spend money on non-essential services. In a debt crisis, the government is mandated to spend money — but doesn’t have the legal authority to borrow the money to spend it.
14. Are the two related? Only by timing, which is somewhat coincidental. 15. When will the government run out of borrowing authority? Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew says it could come as soon as Oct. 17.
16. Has the United States ever defaulted on its debt before? No.
17. If the nation hits the debt limit, will government shut down? That’s a big unknown question. The Treasury Department has said the most likely scenario is that it would delay payments, paying only those bills it can afford, using daily tax revenue.
Courtesy of USA Today.
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