US Government Shutdown

The US Government in Washingon D.C. announced it was shutting down on Tuesday at 12.01 am (Eastern Time) after
prolonged debate in the US House of Representatives and the US Senate could not resolve a deadlock over a US Government spending bill. The US Budget year ends on 30th September. After this deadline the US Government needs the Senate and the House of Representatives to sanction more funds to keep the Government functioning. The US Senate (where Democrats have a majority) voted against the bill by 54 votes to 46 votes by the Republicans. The bill had previously been passed by the House of Representatives, which has a Republican majority. Since the spending bill was not passed by both the Houses of the US Congress, the US Government initiated shutdown processes.

Structure of the US Political System
The US has a Bicameral Legislature with 2 Houses of Congress.

House of Representatives:
Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives: John Boehner
Voting members = 435
Republicans = 232 and Democrats = 200
3 seats are currently vacant; there are also non-voting members.

US Senate:
Democrat Leader in the Senate: Harry Reid
Voting members = 100
Republicans = 46, Democrats = 52, and Independents = 2

Why did the US Government shut down?

The US Government shut down because the US House of Congress and the US Senate could not resolve a deadlock over a US Government spending bill. The US budget year ends on 30th September. Following this date the US Government needs more funding to be sanctioned by the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Republicans led by John Boehner, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, said they would only pass the funding bill if President Obama's healthcare legislation, also known as Obamacare, was deferred by an year. The Democrats refused to delay their healthcare legislation and President Obama remained firm in insisting that his healthcare bill should come into effect. The Democrats and their Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, also supported this stand. They voted against the conditions imposed by the Republicans (who had passed the bill in the House of Representatives) and defeated the bill in the US Senate.

Both John Boehmer and Harry Reid accused each other of not resolving the deadlock. The deadline for passing the spending bill lapsed at 11.59 pm on Monday night. Since more funds have not been sanctioned for the US government to function at full capacity for the next six weeks, the US Government has informed all 'non-essential' employees that they will be 'furloughed' or sent on unpaid leave. Only essential US Government services will function during the period of the shutdown.

Who is responsible for the US Government Shutdown?
A poll by CNN/ORC revealed that 46 % of Americans consider the Republican party responsible for the shutdown, while only 36 % hold Mr Obama and the Democrats responsible for the shutdown.

Which are the essential services that will function during the Shutdown?
Essential services that will function include the armed forces, law enforcement, air traffic management, medical facilities at federal health centers, the National Weather service, and the jail system.

Which are the non-essential services that will be affected?
Non essential services include NASA, the US National Parks system, the Environment Protection Agency, the Internal Revenue Service, and various cultural institutions funded by the federal government including national monuments such as the Library of Congress, the Lincoln Memorial, the National Archives, all Smithsonian Museums, and the National Zoo. Between 700,000 to 800,000 US Government employees will be asked to go on unpaid and indefinite leave. This would include over 1,000 staff in the US White House, where less than 500 staff would be retained for essential services. Garbage collection services in Washington D.C. are also likely to be affected!

How will the Shutdown affect the US Economy?
The US Federal government is the largest employer in the country and employs around 2.1 million people. Between 700,000 and 800,000 people going on indefinite leave without pay will certainly have a significant impact. The US Government's spending will also be curtailed since it cannot accumulate more debt, without Congress raising the spending cap for government expenditure.

Goldman Sachs forecasts that the US economy could slow down by up to 0.9%. The US economy's growth in the last quarter of the year was forecast to be 2.5%, but will now certainly be lower, possibly in the region of 1.6%. IMF estimates that disputes about the US Government budget such as this could have an impact on the global economy leading to a reduction in growth by 0.5% worldwide.

When has the US Government shut down earlier?
There have been 17 shutdowns of the US Government since 1976. The last US Government shutdown was when Bill Clinton was US President in 1996.

US Government shutdowns have been resolved in the past by Democrats and Republicans coming to a mutual agreement on matters of policy and public spending. It remains to be seen how soon this US Government shutdown will be resolved.

Last Updated on: September 19th, 2017