Is The Government About to Shut Down?

by Nuzha Nuseibeh

It's T minus 14 hours until Monday night's fiscal deadline, and the chances of Democrats and Republicans reaching a deal to avoid a government shutdown are looking pretty slim. After several weeks of congressional ping-pong, the ever-changing budget bill has now been thrown back at the Senate. Right now, it's Harry Reid vs. John Boehner, and the stakes are high: finalize the spending bill by midnight, or the federal government shuts down.

Early Sunday, the House passed a measure that would give the government a few more weeks of pay, but would delay funding for Obamacare by a year, and repeal a tax on medical devices — even though Senate Democrats have flatly refused to accept any provision to defund the Affordable Care Act, and President Obama himself has threatened a veto if the bill does somehow find a way to his desk.

"To be absolutely clear, the Senate will reject both the one-year delay of the Affordable Care Act and the repeal of the medical device tax," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in a statement. "After weeks of futile political games from Republicans, we are still at square one."

Frustrating House Republicans, the Senate didn't schedule an emergency meeting Sunday, instead choosing to wait until the scheduled 2 pm session today.

“If the Senate stalls until Monday afternoon instead of working today, it would be an act of breathtaking arrogance by the Senate Democratic leadership,” House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a statement released on Sunday. “They will be deliberately bringing the nation to the brink of a government shutdown for the sake of raising taxes on seniors’ pacemakers and children’s hearing aids and plowing ahead with the train wreck that is the president’s health care law. The American people will not stand for it.”

"That the senators are not here ... is all that everyone needs to know," echoed Arkansas Republican Rep. Tim Griffin. "Democrats want to shutdown the government."

A federal government shutdown would mean several things: It will mean that national parks, museums and public buildings close down. It will also mean that a vast number of federal workers will be put on unpaid leave — the Washington region alone could lose roughly $200 million a day in the event of a shutdown. A shutdown would also mean delays in processing passport and visa applications. It'll mean that child-care facilities in federal agencies would stop running. In an effort to prevent the District of Columbia from falling apart, Mayor Vincent Gray declared all government operations essential — thereby making sure all the 32,000 municipal workers would be expected at their jobs, and would probably be paid via the district's contingency cash reserve fund.

Various Republicans have been using the budget bill (and, by extension, the threat of shutting down the federal government) to try to gut President Obama's Affordable Care Act, which requires all U.S. citizens to have health insurance. A key part of the health care law comes into effect October 1, and will go forward as planned regardless of a shutdown: a comparison website, allowing people to contrast and sign up for health insurance policies online. The expected shutdown would start at 12:01 am Tuesday, and, ironically, at almost the same moment, Obamacare will go live.