Details of the Government Shutdown
The Heritage Foundation reports today that, regarding the so-called "government shutdown," government funding is not at issue: it's ObamaCare. The real story, Heritage claims, isn't the government shutdown but rather the insistence by President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid "to foist ObamaCare on the American people." While the House has passed multiple bills that would fully fund government but would delay or defund ObamaCare, the Senate has continually rejected those moves. Never mind, as Heritage points out, that Congress and the administration have gone forward with delaying major provisions of ObamaCare, giving special consideration to labor unions and Congress. ObamaCare's health insurance exchanges open today.
According to The Hill, White House officials have suggested that a refusal to negotiate over funding the government is their "winning strategy." White House officials have also expressed confidence that they will not have to back down in the slightest and the chances of them negotiating with Republicans are slim to none. Sources in the White House believe GOP divisions and polls showing more people would blame Republicans in Congress for a shutdown mean Obama will not have to give an inch.
Democrats on Capitol Hill are relying on support from Senate Republicans such as Sen. Susan Collins of Maine who disagrees with the House move to link the Affordable Care Act with funding federal government. Certain Republicans in the House have also expressed support for moving a clean funding measure, which gives the White House more leverage. Democrats are claiming Republicans have backed themselves into a corner in this debate and they now have few options remaining. Others point to the Tea Party and say that it is a political base that can never be placated and which seeks to extract ideological concessions in order to save face.
Republicans are stating that Obama risks losing footing as he refuses to negotiate with them. "The president will have to explain why he sat at home and did nothing," said one spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner. A spokeswoman for the National Republican Committee went further, claiming Obama has turned into the typical politician he promised he would not be as he refuses to come to the table.
While debate continues, essential government services will continue. Hans A. von Spakovsky, writing for the National Review, explains that there have been 17 funding gaps since 1977, ranging from 1 to 21 days. From the experience of these prior shutdowns, it is clear "that crucial government services and benefits would continue. That includes all services essential for national security and public safety (such as the military and law enforcement) as well as mandatory government payments such as Social Security and veterans' benefits."
Justice Department legal opinions, applicable federal laws and Office of Management and Budget directives reveal that "a shutting down of the government is an entirely inaccurate description," according to an opinion issued by the Justice Department. The Justice Department opinion states that "the federal government will not be truly 'shut down' ... because Congress itself provided that some activities of Government should continue."
Planes, trains and automobiles will keep running and TSA will continue patting us down. The president can continue overseas trips to conduct foreign relations and Social Security and Medicare benefits will keep going out. The Border Patrol continues its activities. The Federal Bureau of Prisons will keep convicted criminals in prison and the FBI continues to function as normal. The Federal Reserve and the U.S. Treasury will go on as will the IRS. The FDA and Department of Agriculture continue their safety testing and inspection of food, plants and drugs.
What will occur is that nonessential federal employees will be furloughed; but in the November 1995 funding gap, that amounted to only 800,000 out of a total of almost 4.5 million federal employees at the time. In a second funding gap between December 1995 and January 1996, only about 300,000 employees were furloughed; so the vast majority of federal employees will keep working.
National parks will most likely close and some suspect President Obama will shut down other highly visible but nonessential government offices in an effort to annoy members of the public and shift blame for the shutdown to Republicans.