The U.S. government was poised to shut down for the first time in 17 years early Tuesday, after a Congress bitterly divided over President Obama’s signature health-care initiative failed to reach agreement to fund federal agencies.
Hours before a midnight deadline, the Republican House passed its third proposal in two weeks to fund the government for a matter of weeks. Like the previous plans, the new one sought to undermine the Affordable Care Act, this time by delaying enforcement of the “individual mandate,” a cornerstone of the law that requires all Americans to obtain health insurance.
The new measure also sought to strip lawmakers and their aides of long-standing government health benefits.
The Democratic-led Senate quickly rejected that plan on a party-line vote. Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) urged House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) to abandon the assault on the health-care law and pass a simple bill to keep the government open. Otherwise, Reid warned, “the responsibility for this Republican government shutdown will rest squarely on his shoulders.”
Boehner refused to yield. He called instead for a special committee to meet in the coming days to resolve differences between the two parties, leaving in limbo the fate of millions of federal workers and the services they provide.
The impasse means 800,000 federal workers will be furloughed Tuesday. National parks, monuments and museums, as well as most federal offices, will close. Tens of thousands of air-traffic controllers, prison guards and Border Patrol agents will be required to serve without pay. And many congressional hearings — including one scheduled for Tuesday on last month’s Washington Navy Yard shootings — will be postponed.
In [a few hours], the federal government runs out of money.
While the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed a resolution Friday that keeps the government funded through Dec. 15, the measure also defunded President Obama’s signature health care law — which means it has virtually no chance of passing the Democratic-controlled Senate.
If a budget resolution doesn’t hit President Obama’s desk before Oct. 1, that’s a big problem: The government will be forced to close its doors.
With that prospect looming, here are eight things you should know about the possible shutdown:
It won’t be the first time
Since a new budgeting process was put into place in 1976, the U.S. government has shut down 17 times. Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan each dealt with six shutdowns during their terms in office, lasting anywhere from one day to 2 1/2 weeks.
The last actual shutdown came in 1996 — though the government came close during budget negotiations in 2011.
The last shutdown lasted three weeks
The three-week shutdown that lasted from Dec. 16, 1995, to Jan. 6, 1996, ranks as the longest in U.S. history. As a result, about 284,000 federal workers were furloughed, and around 475,000 essential employees went without a paycheck, although they were eventually reimbursed.
They weren’t the only ones inconvenienced. Some benefits for military veterans were delayed, and cleanup at more than 600 toxic waste sites was stopped. The government also shut down for six days in mid-November 1995, initially resulting in the furlough of 800,000 federal employees. The Congressional Research Service reported the shutdowns cost taxpayers a combined $1.4 billion.
Only the “essentials”
Only federal employees deemed “essential” would continue to come to work during a shutdown. Employees who qualify as essential include those involved in national security, protecting life and property and providing benefit payments.
That means members of the military, border control agents, air traffic controllers, the FBI and the TSA are among those who would remain on duty. The president and members of Congress are also exempt from furlough and must decide which of their respective staff members to keep around during a shutdown.
The checks are in the mail
Even in the event of a shutdown, Social Security beneficiaries will still find their checks in their mailboxes and doctors and hospitals will receive Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements. However, if the government does not resolve the budget situation by Nov. 1, those entitlement program payments could be delayed by up to two weeks.
Even in a shutdown, the Postal Service delivers
One reason Americans will get their entitlement checks: A government shutdown would not hit the operations of the U.S. Postal Service. Government agencies that the Treasury Department does not directly fund, like USPS, would be relatively unaffected in the short term by a shutdown . Some postal employees would very likely face furlough, but it wouldn’t be enough to completely close down the agency.
National parks and museums? Forget it
Have plans to visit a national park or go sightseeing in the nation’s capital? You might want to cancel them. During the Clinton-era shutdowns, 368 national parks closed, resulting in the loss of 7 million visitors. In Washington, D.C., the public would be unable to visit the monuments and museums that millions of tourists flock to every year. The Capitol building would remain open, though.
Visa and passport delays
Those hoping to enter or leave the country during a shutdown would most likely experience some difficulty. The government was unable to process around 200,000 pending passport applications and a daily average of 30,000 visa and passport applications by foreigners during the 1995-96 shutdowns. This would result not only in a headache for would-be travelers but a loss in millions for the airline and tourism industries.
Who would be blamed for a shutdown?
Generally speaking, no one comes out looking good if the government shuts down. A Pew Research poll conducted Sept. 19-22 shows 39 percent of Americans would blame Republicans if a shutdown were to occur, compared with 36 percent who would fault the Obama administration and 17 percent who would hold both sides responsible. According to a Pew poll from a comparable period during the 2011 budget battle, the public spread the blame around nearly identically.
President Barack Obama on Monday again urged House Republicans to pass an eleventh-hour measure to avert a government shutdown, saying that conservatives are holding the government “ransom” over their objections to Obamacare.
“One faction of one party in one house of Congress in one branch of government doesn’t get to shut down the entire government just to re-fight the results of an election,” he said during a statement at the White House.
Obama said that a shutdown “does not have to happen” and can be prevented if House Republicans agree to pass the Senate’s version of a funding bill before midnight tonight.
“You don’t get to extract a ransom for doing your job, for doing what you’re supposed to be doing anyway” he said. “Or just because there’s a law there that you don’t like.”
The president’s statement comes as Congress remains deadlocked over a measure to keep the government funded after midnight tonight.
With the clock ticking towards the deadline, House Republicans announced earlier Monday afternoon that they intend to vote on a funding measure that includes a one-year delay of the individual mandate provision of Obamacare, a proposal that Senate Democrats are certain to reject.
In an interview with NPR News, Obama also reiterated that he will not accept such a delay.
“The notion that we would even delay [Obamacare] – simply because the Republicans have decided ideologically that they’re opposed to the Affordable Care Act – is not something that we’re going to be discussing.”
Obama made a similarly late-scheduled address last Friday, reiterating bluntly that he will not roll back his signature domestic policy achievement.
“The House Republicans are so concerned with appeasing the Tea Party that they’ve threatened a government shutdown or worse unless I gut or repeal the Affordable Care Act,” Obama said Friday. “Let me repeat it. That’s not going to happen. More than 100 million Americans currently already have new benefits and protections under the law.”
The House votes to delay ObamaCare, the Breaking Bad finale airs, and more
1. Shutdown looms for U.S. government
The U.S. government appears to be on the verge of shutting down for the first time in 17 years. The slow-motion budget crisis will continue Monday with Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) set to reject measures the House approved early Sunday to delay President Obama’s Affordable Care Act for one year, repeal a tax on medical devices, and guarantee that paychecks are sent to active-duty military service members. House GOP leaders are likely to again face a decision about how to handle the simpler six-week government funding bill the Senate approved last week. [Washington Post]
2. Breaking Bad finale airs Breaking Bad‘s highly anticipated series finale aired Sunday night on AMC. As millions of viewers tuned in to see how the saga of chemistry teacher turned meth dealer Walter White ended, cast member Aaron Paul hosted a finale viewing party in Los Angeles’s Hollywood Forever ceremony, raising $1.8 million for his wife’s anti-bullying nonprofit. As for the finale itself, The Week‘s Scott Meslow noted, “Walt got what I suspect manyBreaking Bad fans were looking for,” while Variety said the finale “got the chemistry just right.” [The Hollywood Reporter, Variety]
3. Netanyahu to advise caution in dealing with Iran Mortified that the world may be warming up to Iran, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to tell the White House and the United Nations this week not to be fooled by Tehran’s new leadership. Netanyahu says Iran is using conciliatory gestures to conceal a march toward a nuclear bomb. He will deliver that warning, and some new intelligence to bolster it, to President Obama today in an attempt to persuade the U.S. to maintain tough economic sanctions and keep the threat of military action on the table. [Associated Press]
4. Twitter plans to make its filing public this week
Twitter plans to make its IPO filing public this week, following a September 12 filing with U.S. regulators. Twitter, which is expected to be valued at up to $15 billion, filed confidentially and without disclosing a timeline, under a process available to emerging companies. The IPO could still be delayed by a variety of factors, from changes to the prospectus to a shutdown of the U.S. government. [Quartz] ………………………………………………………………………………
5. Sainthood date announced for two popes Pope Francis announced Monday morning that Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII will be declared saints on April 27, 2014. The pope said in July that he would canonize two of his predecessors, after approving a second miracle attributed to Pope John Paul II. Poland-born John Paul, the first non-Italian pope for more than 400 years, led the Catholic Church from 1978 to 2005. Pope John XXIII was pontiff from 1958 to 1963. [BBC News]
6. Nissan and Mazda issue vehicle recalls Japanese automakers Nissan and Mazda issued separate recalls on Sunday for more than 260,000 cars. Doors in up to 98,000 recent Mazda 6 vehicles may open while the car is in motion, the automaker announced. For its part, Nissan stated that its M35 and M45 models may stall while moving. No injuries have been reported as a result of the issues. Both automakers said they would notify vehicle owners this fall. [CNN Money]
7. Second Amanda Knox trial begins in Italy
Amanda Knox’s second appeals trial opened Monday in Knox’s absence. Italy’s highest court ordered a new trial for Knox and her former Italian boyfriend, overturning their 2011 acquittals in the gruesome 2007 killing of Meredith Kercher. The appellate court in Florence is expected to re-examine forensic evidence to determine whether Knox and her former boyfriend helped kill the 21-year-old Kercher while the two women shared an apartment in the town of Perugia. The appellate court hearing the new case could declare Knox, now a University of Washington student, in contempt of court, an act that carries no additional penalties. [ABC News]
8. Apple named world’s No. 1 brand
Brand consulting group Interbrand named Apple the most valuable brand in the world in its annual “Best Global Brands” report. Previous No. 1 brand Coca-Cola fell to No. 3, and was passed by Google, which took second place this year. Ranking criteria included financial performance. Apple’s brand was valued at $98.3 billion, in comparison to Coca-Cola’s $79.2 billion. [The New York Times]
9. Second phase of BP trial begins The civil trial of oil company BP begins its second phase today. This part of the trial will determine the amount of oil that spilled into the Gulf of Mexico from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon rig explosion that killed 11 workers and soiled hundreds of miles of beaches. While BP insists it was properly prepared to respond to the disaster, plaintiffs’ attorneys will argue that the London-based company could have capped the well much sooner. The plaintiffs’ lawyers also say BP repeatedly lied to federal officials and withheld information. [USA TODAY]
10. NBA voting on Finals format changes
The NBA Finals is reportedly returning to its former 2-2-1-1-1 home-court advantage format. The league’s current 2-3-2 championship format allows the team with home-court advantage to host the first and last two games, with the lower-seeded team hosting the middle three. Critics say the current format disproportionately favors the higher seed, leading to more-predictable contests. The NBA Competition Committee voted unanimously for the change, and the decision is now awaiting owner approval. [Sports Illustrated]
The Justice Department will file suit against North Carolina on Monday, charging that the Tar Heel State’s new law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls violates the Voting Rights Act by discriminating against African Americans, according to a person familiar with the planned litigation.
Attorney General Eric Holder is expected to announce the lawsuit at 11 a.m. Monday at Justice Department headquarters, flanked by the three U.S. Attorneys from North Carolina.
The suit, set to be filed in Greensboro, N.C., will ask that the state be barred from enforcing the new voter ID law, the source said. However, the case will also go further, demanding that the entire state of North Carolina be placed under a requirement to have all changes to voting laws, procedures and polling places “precleared” by either the Justice Department or a federal court, the source added.
Until this year, 40 North Carolina counties were under such a requirement. However, in June, the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional the formula Congress used to subject parts or all of 15 states to preclearance in recent decades.
The justices’ 5-4 ruling outraged civil rights advocates, but did not disturb a rarely-used “bail in” provision in the law that allows judges to put states or localities under the preclearance requirement. Civil rights groups and the Justice Department have since seized on that provision to try to recreate part of the regime that existed prior to the Supreme Court decision.
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) signed the voter ID measure into law last last month.
“Common practices like boarding an airplane and purchasing Sudafed require photo ID and we should expect nothing less for the protection of our right to vote,” McCrory said at the time. “This new law brings our state in line with a healthy majority of other states throughout the country. This common sense safeguard is common-place.”
A law mandating a photo ID for voting was not on the books in North Carolina during the 2012 presidential election. Such a measure passed in 2011, but it was vetoed by then-Gov. Bev Perdue (D). The legislature failed to override her veto.
According to the source, DOJ’s lawsuit will object to the law’s photo ID requirement as well as three other key provisions: the elimination of the first 7 days of early voting that took place in 2012, the end to same-day voter registration during the early voting period, and the end to the option of provisional ballots for voters who show up at the wrong polling place.
The complaint will allege that the law was passed with discriminatory intent and as part of a deliberate effort to deny African Americans the right to vote, the source said. A North Carolina Board of Elections study in April of this year found that more than 300,000 registered voters in the state did not have a Department of Motor Vehicles-issued ID. African Americans accounted for 34 percent of those who did not match with the DMV records, although they account for only about 22 percent of registered voters in the state.
DOJ moved in July to put Texas, which had been subject to preclearance statewide until the June Supreme Court ruling, back under preclearance requirements. That move came first in a pending lawsuit over redistricting in the state and later in another case over that state’s voter ID law.
Judges have yet to act on those requests. However, Gov. Rick Perry (R) complained that the Justice Department’s demand disrespected the Supreme Court decision.
“This end run around the Supreme Court undermines the will of the people of Texas, and casts unfair aspersions on our state’s common-sense efforts to preserve the integrity of our elections process,” Perry said in a statement.
In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled, 6-3, that an Indiana voter ID law was constitutional. However, the justices did not deal with the question of whether that law or a similar law in another state might violate the Voting Rights Act. Civil rights advocates have insisted that the Voting Rights Act puts a greater burden on states seeking to restrict voting when doing so disproportionately affects minority groups.
If you’re confused about Obamacare, you’re not alone. Over the past several years, everysurvey on the subject has revealed that Americans consistently fail to correctly identify the provisions that are actually in the Affordable Care Act. In April, a poll found that 40 percent of Americans weren’t sure about whether Obamacare was still law at all.
Administration officials are racing against the clock to reverse those incorrect public perceptions, ramping up their outreach efforts before the health law’s new state-level marketplaces open for enrollment this upcoming week. As the open enrollment period draws near, you may be wondering how it affects you or what you need to do. Or you may simply want to understand more about the law that’s dominating the news. Here are simple answers to 20 questions about Obamacare that may have you mystified (click on each question to jump down to the answer, or just scroll down to read all of them):
Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) explained to the Washington Examiner this weekend why she and some other House conservatives don’t fear a government shutdown.
The bottom line is: They think this is their chance to stop Obamacare.
“There is a very large group of us who believe that this is it, this isn’t just another year, this isn’t just another CR fight,” Bachmann told the Examiner’s Byron York. “This is historic, and it’s a historic shift that’s about to happen, and if we’re going to fight, we need to fight now.”
“This isn’t just another bill,” Bachmann said. “This isn’t load limits on turnip trucks that we’re talking about. This is consequential. And I think the reason why you’ve come to this flash point is that this is an extremely consequential bill that will impact every American, and that’s why you have such passionate opinions. And we’re not giving up and we’re not caving in that easily.”
Bachmann also dismissed concerns about congressional brinksmanship, which some contend has a negative effect on the U.S. economy.
“I don’t get upset about brinksmanship,” she said. “That’s what negotiation is. I was a federal tax lawyer. That’s all I did — negotiation. And in negotiation, you usually don’t get anywhere until the final five minutes, and then everybody realizes OK, we’re going to have to break and actually make this thing happen. That’s how negotiation works.”
In a special Sunday radio address, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) delivered a health tip to the American people, advising them to delay getting cancer for a year.
“We’re involved in a high-stakes fight over our freedom from centralized government control of our lives,” said Mr. Boehner, speaking on behalf of his House colleagues. “You can do your part by delaying getting cancer.”
He added that heart disease, emphysema, and diabetes were among a laundry list of conditions that would be “patriotic to avoid for a year.”
“If you delay getting any of these things for the next twelve months, together we will win this fight,” he said.
In closing, he reassured the American people that in the event of a government shutdown, members of Congress’ health benefits would remain intact: “We want to be in tip-top shape to continue to do the excellent job we’re doing for you.”
Friday night on HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher,” host Bill Maher pointed out that unlike most of the country, California’s economy is surging ahead, thanks to the efforts of the state Democratic Party and veteran Gov. Jerry Brown (D). California is going to drag the rest of the country kicking and screaming into the present, he said, if it can.
“New rule,” Maher said, “Conservatives who love to brag about American exceptionalism must come here to California and see it in person. And then they should be afraid. Because while right-wingers are taking over places like North Carolina and Texas and even Wisconsin, California is creating the kind of modern, liberal nation the country as a whole can only dream about.”
“And not only can’t the rest of the country stop us, we’re going to drag you with us,” he said.
In 2010, he said, when many other states were electing tea party Republicans to office, California elected a Democratic governor. Without a Republican governor or state legislator “cock blocking” efforts at reform, the state was able to raise taxes and reorganize spending and turn its massive deficit into a budget surplus.
“Here in California, we’re not just gluten-free and soy-free and peanut-free,” he said, “we’re tea party-free! Yes, we can live in reality.”
Watch the video, embedded below via YouTube user “Walter Cronkite”: