Government Shutdown: Explained

After 16 days of bad jokes and no panda cam, the government is now up and running! Although the consequences seemed minor to most Harriton students, the close of our national government impacted government workers throughout the nation, in jobs ranging from veterans’ affairs to park rangers. With the government open again, these men and women can breathe a sigh of relief. Although, this does not mean that we should not look back and attempt to learn from this unsettling time.

The government’s fiscal year goes from October 1st until September 30th. This means that the government needed to agree on a new fiscal policy by October 1st. During discussions on September 20th, the House of Representatives, which is mostly composed of republicans, voted to keep the government funded through December 15th, but only if the president agreed to defund the 2010 Affordable Care Act (commonly known as Obamacare). Many Republicans had previously disagreed with this law. Obama has stated that the purpose of this Act is to increase the number of Americans covered by health insurance and decrease the cost of health care. The most controversial part of this act is that no one will be excluded from getting insurance plans. A common misconception about the government shutdown is that Obamacare caused it. The Affordable Care Act was simply a tool used in the bargaining process. Between September 24th and 25th, Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, made a 21-hour-long speech attempting to rally others against Obamacare and convince Democrats to agree to the Republicans’ outlined fiscal compromise rejecting it. The Senate, which is mostly composed of Democrats, rejected this proposal and sent the bill back to the house. Between September 27th and 30th, the House and the Senate argued over the compromise. When they could not come to an amicable decision, the government shut down on October 1, 2013.

The noticeable differences while the government was closed fall mostly to national parks, financial aid for students, school nutrition programs, veteran’s affairs and certain food assistance programs. Although many of these things did not affect us, in the Main Line, at the time, the overall effects changed plans for people all over the country. The largest effect of the government shutdown was the thousands of jobs that were temporarily closed. This particular aspect created a panic when families were nervous about the fact that they would not receive their paychecks.

The government shutdown of 2013 lasted from October 1st until October 17th. During this time, the executive and legislative branches of our government discussed various proposals to restart the government. The Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell were faced with the task of finding a possible solution to extend the debt limit and reopen the federal government. On October 16th, The Senate Majority and Minority Leaders announced that they had come to a deal to temporarily halt the government shutdown until January 15th, 2014 and extend the debt limit until February 7th, 2013. This measure was passed 81-18 in the Senate and 285-144 in the House. President Obama signed the law shortly after midnight on October 17th, ending the shutdown for the time being.

Although January and February 2014 may seem far away now, these are deadlines for our government to come together and create a more permanent solution. Hopefully we can learn from these unsettling sixteen days to avoid another crisis in the future.