Today the Senate sent a cleaned up version of the Continuing Resolution to the House who returned the CR to the Senate with more anti-Obamacare language. The good news–for a very few–is that members of Congress will continue to be paid because they are considered “essential.” The bad news for most of the people is the GOP extortion will tear at the fragile economy of the United States.
In a satiric column, Andy Borowitz summarized the position of the House GOP regarding the vote that will shut down many parts of the federal government tomorrow:
“In a special Sunday radio address, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) 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.'”
The back-and-forth started ten days ago when the House sent a Continuing Resolution to continue funding the federal government with attachments that would defund Obamacare and eliminate the 2.7 percent tax on medical devices. The Senate returned a “clean” CR to continue funding the federal government, and the House retaliated with a CR that kept the anti-Obamacare provisions. As that CR was debated into early Sunday morning, Rep. Matt Salmon described the House mood as “ecstatic.”
Polls consistently show that people oppose a shutdown and are annoyed with political grandstanding, but Salmon said that the situation is “a win-win all the way around.” The New York Times described the mood of the GOP House members as “downright giddy.” Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) described his part in the closed-door meeting: “I said, like 9/11, ‘Let’s roll!’ ” Part of the “giddy” may have come from the alcoholic “spirits” that witnesses believed were being imbibed.
The Senate voted down additional provisions in the CR this morning. The House took the CR, added the anti-Obamacare provisions, and sent it back this afternoon. The Senate bounced the CR, minus the Obamacare provisions, back to the House this evening.
On Sunday morning Meet the Press, David Gregory continually asked Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) about his inability to change people’s minds about Obamacare despite a 21-hour speech. Cruz only repeated, “I’m just trying to fight for 26 million Texans.” Of those 26 million Texans, 28.8 percent lack health insurance, compared to the 4.5 percent in Massachusetts with “Romneycare.” That’s at least 7,488,000 Texans who Cruz doesn’t represent. Cruz’s appearance today is a week after the Fox network, with the help of Karl Rove, eviscerated the man who wants to be president.
A government shutdown separates all federal workers into “essential” and “non-essential”—or more politely “excepted” and “non-excepted.” Managers at all federal agencies were directed to separate employees into these two categories. With a shutdown, essential workers stay without pay; non-essential workers close up shop for a half day and then go home.
Essential categories include national security, public safety, or programs in permanent or multi-year law such as Social Security and some veterans’ benefits. The U.S. military keeps operating, and air traffic controllers stay on the job. So do people in the areas of emergency medical care, food-safety inspections, border patrol, federal prisons, law enforcement, emergency and disaster assistance, overseeing the banking system (such as it is), operating the power grid, and guarding federal property.
Agencies with independent sources of funding, such as the U.S. Postal Service and Federal Reserve, keep running. Congressional members keep getting paid although their aides won’t unless they have specific appropriations. Essential workers won’t get retroactive pay for the shutdown unless Congress votes to give this to them.
Despite Salmon’s belief that this is a “win-win” situation, here are the losers:
- In 2011, the government estimated furloughs without pay for 1.2 million federal employees in case of a shutdown. That’s 50 percent more than the 800,000 people sent home in the last round of 1995-1996.
- People should forget getting visas, passports, entry into at least 400 national parks, monuments, and museums—the lights are off. That means the loss of millions—maybe billions—to lodging, eating places, retain places, etc. because people won’t travel to those areas.
- No student or small business loans means that all these people put their lives on hold until the GOP House members stop drinking and get back to reality.
- Gun lovers can’t add to their arsenals because the shutdown stops the processing of permits.
- Nobody gets a federal loan for a house until the GOP decides to lift the government’s shutdown.
- The National Institutes of Health won’t accept new patients for clinical research or answer hotline calls about medial questions, and the Centers for Disease Control stops monitoring disease.
- Investigations into bankruptcy and child-support cases cease.
- With no regulators, the EPA shuts down as do the Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
- People might get their Social Security checks, but they won’t get their questions answered or their addresses changed.
- A backlog of veterans’ requests of benefits shrank from 600,000 to 450,000 in September. The shutdown reverses that trend.
- IRS tax refunds along with farm loans and payments won’t exist during the shutdown.
- A shutdown of more than one week would take money from public schools, that receive over 20 percent of their funds from the federal government, and the 14 million students on student grants and loans at over 6,600 schools.
And much, much more as identified in this 2011 memo from the White House when the GOP members in Congress played the same game. Congressional Research Service recently issued a 21-page document called “Shutdown of the Federal Government: Causes, Processes, and Effects.”
The mayor of Washington, D.C. is declaring all city services “essential” so the weekly 500 tons of garbage will get picked up as well as functioning in other city agencies including the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Department of Public Works, and the D.C. Public Libraries.
What the country lost in the 1995-1996 shutdowns:
- U.S. tourist industries and airlines lost millions of dollars from disruption of the passport and visa holdups and closed national parks. Business trips were also stopped, both here and abroad.
- One-fifth, $3.7 billion, of federal contracts was put on hold with employees unpaid.
- Drilling permits and processing applications for liquefied natural gas exports were stopped.
- The FDA was spared in the last shutdown, but this time the review process for new drugs may be bogged down because the FDA is no longer considered “essential.”
One major system not impacted by a government shutdown is Obamacare, including the new online marketplaces that go into effect the same day as the shutdown. Medicaid expansion and federal tax credits helping with purchasing coverage both have mandatory funding.
Even scarier than the government shutdown from a lack of the CR is the possibility of disaster from the GOP not raising the debt ceiling. Former adviser to Sen. John McCain (R-A) and Moody’s economist Mark Zandi testified at a joint congressional hearing earlier this month on “The Economic Costs of Debt-Ceiling Brinkmanship”:
“If you don’t do [raise the debt ceiling] in time, confidence will evaporate, consumer confidence will sharply decline, [as well as] investor confidence, business confidence. Businesses will stop hiring, consumers will stop spending, the stock market will fall significantly in value, borrowing costs for businesses and households will rise.”
The government has enough money to pay its bills, debts that Congress has already accrued, until October 17. GOP legislators don’t seem to understand that raising the debt ceiling means that the country pays the bills—expenditures caused by GOP’s reduction of taxes and excessive costs for at least two wars.
Responses from people in the United States to the GOP’s current hostage situation:
- Only 7 percent back the GOP’s plan to delay and defund Obamacare.
- Less than one-third (26 percent) support the GOP’s ultimate and oft-stated goal of completely repealing Obamacare.
- On Obamacare, 68 percent want the law to move forward as is or with improvements.
- The same percentage (68 percent) agree that shutting down the government for even a few days is “a bad thing for the country.”
- Four-fifths agree agree that threatening a government shutdown is not an acceptable way to negotiate.
Over and over, GOP legislators say that Obamacare passed with the approval of only one party. They ignore the fact that only one party in the House has passed the last 40+ votes to overturn the law. Ted Cruz has called on Republicans to “stand your ground.” Florida has that law, and we know how well that worked out for Trayvon Martin and thousands of other people.
If the GOP stands their ground and shuts down the government tomorrow, remember one thing: Congress will still get paid.
[Did you know that there was a “panda cam” at the National Zoo to show the new baby panda bear? Never mind. It’s been shut down along with lots of other things that the federal government provides. Okay, GOP, the government isn’t into shutdown. But Obamacare just started!]