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It’s a Shutdown, Then!

So it’s going to be a government shutdown. At the end of the day Monday, the Treasury Department’s authority to spend money to fund the operations of government will expire. How did we get here?

First, Congress didn’t pass any of the ordinary spending bills, as it’s supposed to do in the summer. Oh, it seemed like Congress might follow the schedule early in the year, but progress quickly halted. The new fiscal year starts Tuesday, October 1st.

So two Fridays ago (September 20th), the House passed a “continuing resolution” (H.J. Res. 59) that would fund the government until December 15th. It also defunded Obamacare.

“No deal!” said the Senate, which sent the bill back, stripped of the provisions defunding Obamacare. It would have paid for the government’s operations until November 15th.

So on Saturday, with about 48 hours to go before the end of the fiscal year, the House sent the bill back to the Senate. The latest version would fund the government through December 15th, and it would delay the individual mandate in Obamacare and the insurance exchanges, which are currently supposed to go into operation on Tuesday. It would also eliminate a 2.3 percent tax on medical devices that helps to pay for Obamacare.

The White House has threatened to veto that bill, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) says that the bill will die in the Senate.

The last word was that the Senate’s leaders want to pass a “clean” continuing resolution in the afternoon on Monday, forcing the House to pass the Senate’s latest version or take responsibility for the shutdown starting at midnight Monday night.

But just how shut is shutdown?

“Essential” services of the government stay up and running during a shutdown, and on Friday the New York Times published a graphic showing how many workers in what agencies would be furloughed.

Ninety-seven percent of NASA’s 18,134 workers would stay home. But the scientists on the international space station would keep working. They are, after all, not in a position to take some days off.

At the opposite extreme is the Veterans Administration, which has 332,025 workers. Only 4% of them would be furloughed. Your VA nurses will still be working.

The Defense Department splits right down the middle, with half its workers deemed non-essential. The times reports that the military’s environmental engineers would stay home. Military recruiters stay on the job.

Incidentally, the House passed H.R. 3210 early Sunday morning, a bill to continue spending on military pay in the event of a government shutdown.

So a government shutdown is a mess, but Congress walks up to that cliff nearly every year. It’s been a decade since Congress passed a budget on time, according to the National Priorities Project’s post last week, “Government Shutdown is a Failure of Democracy.” A shutdown is upon us, and it’s something like business as usual for the federal government.

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