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Government shuts down — for how long?

Hundreds of thousands of federal employees have gone on unpaid furlough starting Tuesday, victims of America’s 18th partial government shutdown.

These furloughs result when Congress fails to appropriate money to operate the federal bureaucracy or fails to pass a continuing resolution to maintain past appropriations. It was the failure to reach a deal between the Republican-led House and Democratic-led Senate for a continuing resolution this week that caused the current shutdown.

The Office of Personnel Management has put out this directive to the bureaucracy:

“In a shutdown furlough, an affected agency would have to shut down any activities funded by annual appropriations that are not excepted by law. Typically, an agency will have very little to no lead time to plan and implement a shutdown furlough.”

No one is quite certain of the exact number, but more than 800,000 workers went home Tuesday after reporting briefly – for a period of no more than four hours – to do the business of shutting down much of the machinery of government.

All national parks have closed. Americans who turn 65 this week cannot apply for Social Security or Medicare benefits. No one can ask for new Small Business Administration loans, complete an Internal Revenue Service audit or verify if a prospective employee is in the United States legally.

Even the hugely popular Internet “panda cam” at the National Zoo has gone dark.

How long will this last?

The first partial shutdown in modern times occurred in 1976, when President Gerald Ford vetoed the funding bills for the departments of Labor and Health, Education and Welfare, prompting those departments to close for 10 days.

The longest partial shutdown was the last, a 21-day period from Dec. 16, 1995, through Jan. 6, 1996. That was prompted by a squabble between President Bill Clinton and the Republican-controlled Congress over whose timetable should be used to craft a federal budget. The two sides compromised.

It’s anyone’s guess, of course, how long the current spat will continue on whether the government should be shut down because some Republicans want a delay in implementing part of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, and Democrats do not.

Ironically, Americans are able to sign up for health insurance this week under so-called “Obamacare” because the Department of Health and Human Services set up a contingency plan that provides for staff to operate the program.

Scripps Howard News Service


Discussion | 17 comments

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  • PornacOctober 02, 2013 - 6:59 am

    It should last until we get rid of socialist medicine. Send them poor folks to the ER.

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  • Mr. PracticalOctober 02, 2013 - 8:05 am

    Pornac, good to see you're finally on board.

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  • Rudolph MadronichOctober 02, 2013 - 9:30 am

    The longer the shutdown lasts the american people will see just how little we need big government.

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  • rlw895October 02, 2013 - 10:57 am

    Or how much we need little government;-).

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  • CD BrooksOctober 02, 2013 - 11:33 am

    Either way, somebody HAS to govern!

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  • rlw895October 02, 2013 - 11:46 am

    A lot of people who don't believe that are now politically active for the first time in their life. Part of the grand Republican coalition of everyone who isn't a Democrat. EVERYONE else is welcome into that Big Tent.

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  • rlw895October 02, 2013 - 11:50 am

    This is just a preliminary until the debt limit comes up. Tea partiers figure they have to be true to their principles, so they can't put delaying ObamaCare on the line for the debt limit increase if the DON'T put it on the line for the continuing resolution. Maybe not entirely rational, but, hey, consider who's doing it.

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  • rlw895October 02, 2013 - 11:52 am

    Consider all this hoopla is over a CONTINUING RESOLUTION, not even a budget. That's lost in the crisis; it's scandalous we can't pass a budget.

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  • Mr. PracticalOctober 02, 2013 - 6:43 pm

    I agree with you that it's scandalous that we can't pass a budget. Where we may differ is I believe both parties are complicit.

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  • rlw895October 02, 2013 - 7:35 pm

    Mr.P: Normally the first step to negotiating a budget is to pass a continuing resolution to provide time. What's the problem this time? You don't actually blame the Democrats for not accepting the insane conditions the Republicans set, do you? Same with the pending "routine" increase in the debt ceiling. If we can't get agreements on routine matters because one side wants to play Russian roulette, who's the victim and who's the nut case?

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  • Mr. PracticalOctober 03, 2013 - 5:27 am

    The continuing resolution is the issue du jour. This has been going on for a long time and both sides are unwilling to compromise.

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  • Mr. SmithOctober 02, 2013 - 7:17 pm

    This debacle has been one of our nation's saddest chapters. It is hard for the rank and file to be objective about who is to blame, given the constant cheerleading for Obama and company by the mainstream media. However, if one can't sit back and ascribe a lot of the blame to BO and the Dems, then that person hasn't been paying attention. The "My way or the highway" mantra is certainly not exclusive to the Repubs. There is very little leadership anywhere in DC these days, and it is a tragedy for the USA on so many levels. A pox on both their houses!

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  • rlw895October 02, 2013 - 7:29 pm

    Mr.S: What's different this time is the "tea party" Republicans and the refusal of the more mainstream Republicans to cut them loose and form a governing coalition with the more moderate Democrats. Who's to blame for that?

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  • Mr. SmithOctober 02, 2013 - 8:33 pm

    RLW: You will not accept this for a millisecond--but here goes. The blame goes to the folks who voted Obama (an extremely unknown and untested candidate) into office, after the way he vowed to "fundamentally change" the United States of America from the outset. The people he surrounded himself with early on should have disqualified him as a future president, had the press done its job of vetting. But the best example, among hundreds of examples, is the way the ACA became law under his (lack of) leadership. I could go on, but you see the problem here, do you not?

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  • rlw895October 03, 2013 - 12:46 am

    Mr.S: I accept that’s what you believe. Here’s what I believe. Obama WAS an “unknown and untested candidate,” but so have been many of our presidents. Lincoln, for one. And some of our best known and tested candidates have been pretty lousy presidents; for example, Grant. And all Obama and Biden had to do was beat McCain and Palin. We can lay the blame for that on the Republicans, right? It’s popular for anti-Obama people to denigrate those who supported his election(s) as “low-information” voters or people mesmerized by his idealistic speeches or people who thought he would be some sort of messiah or people who just wanted to vote for our first ethnic minority president. But Obama proved his mettle by clearing a strong field of better known Democratic primary contenders. He did that by being smart and organized and having people like that on his staff. Winning the presidency over McCain-Palin was relatively easy. Obama vowed to change America, speaking to the world as much as to our voters. The change we wanted was someone very different from what we had just gone through with Bush-Cheney. I don’t know what you think the “change” he promised was, but consider there is more than one possibility. And who the heck did he surround himself with that “should have disqualified him as a future president?” Gee, if only the press had “done its job.” That’s a cop-out. I submit the only way that you would have been satisfied with the press is if Obama lost. There will always be SOMETHING you believe the press could have turned up that would have saved the day for McCain-Palin. Another possibility is there was NO SUCH THING. You’re weren’t going to beat Obama by going after his character or his associates. And you don’t think the Republicans had enough resources without the press “doing its job” to expose any Obama skeletons? They sure tried, and everything they found was pretty bogus. But then, they were only going after the undecided, low-information voters—not those Democrats but all those other kind. It all culminates in the ACA—I agree with you there—Obama’s “signature legislative achievement.” It’s become a surrogate for the man himself; defeat “ObamaCare,” and you (finally) defeat him. But what “way the ACA became law” troubles you? Did it not get majorities in both houses of congress and the president’s signature? People engaged in legislating know how to count. When they have the votes, they move forward. It’s not their fault some of the naysayers are left behind. It’s the losers who don’t know how to negotiate (OR count), not the winners. Trust me when I say many people would have preferred a single-payer system. It’s a testament to Obama’s efforts to reach out, his willingness to negotiate and compromise, and, yes, his CONSERVATISM that we didn’t get it. And for this the Republicans are willing to destroy our economic standing in the world? Cut the tea party wing out and form a coalition with the Democrats before it’s too late.

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  • Respectfully Disagree w/youOctober 03, 2013 - 7:48 am

    The Global elite vet/approve/put forward.... both the Democrat and Republican Candidates, then pick which will better serve to accomplish ( the dumbed down voters on the Dem and Repub sides will put up the least resistance to )...their set agenda...like taking out Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iran...taking guns away from the citizenry....putting health care under Government control....etc...etc............As far as Hillary or Obama the Bilderbergs thought that Obama as lead actor and Hillary as Secretary of state would best serve their goals...It is all staged people....Democrat/Republican same same.

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  • WAKE UP PEOPLEOctober 03, 2013 - 7:53 am

    For example Obama got a pass on giving mass quantities of cash to the Bankers under the TARP program...under McCain there would have been even more of an uproar and more Occupy Wall Street protests by the Democrats?....Obama got to take out Libya NO QUESTIONS ASKED....Both Democrat Presidents and Republican Presidents, Senate Lots of the House work for the Global Bankers.

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