Federal Government Shuts Down as Budget Battle Continues

Photo courtesy of Pete Souza/federal government: President Barack Obama signs legislation that would pay active military during the government shutdown Sept. 30 at the White House.

Alex Veeneman, Asst. News Editor

The federal government shut down late Sept. 30 as talks surrounding a budget deal remained deadlocked in Congress.

Funding for the government expired at 11:59 p.m. EDT. This is the first shutdown since Dec. 1995, when a budget deal could not be agreed upon by then President Bill Clinton and then House Speaker Newt Gingrich until the beginning of 1996.

As many as 800,000 federal employees are to be furloughed, or placed on leave without compensation, while a budget deal is attempted to be reached, and up to one million federal employees will report to work without compensation, according to a report from The New York Times. A majority of the 48,441 federal civilian employees in Ill. would be furloughed, according to information obtained from Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.)’s office.

Military personnel are to receive compensation under legislation signed by President Barack Obama Sept. 30, according to a report from NPR.

Jim Bradshaw, a spokesman for the U.S. department of education, said Pell grants and federal student loans would continue to be processed during the shutdown, and Janeen Decharinte, director of financial aid services, said she did not anticipate the shutdown to disrupt financial aid for Lewis students.

Government services also operating include operations at the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, mail delivery by the U.S. Postal Service and services from active military, according to information posted on the federal government’s USA.gov web site.

Other government services operating include some services of the National Weather Service (whose Chicago forecast office is located behind Lewis) and its parent agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), including the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., and the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Fla. However, it is unclear if all agencies are fully staffed.

A spokesperson for the National Weather Service’s Chicago forecast office declined to comment. A spokesperson for the Storm Prediction Center was not authorized to comment because of the shutdown. Attempts to reach spokespersons at the National Hurricane Center and at NOAA headquarters were unsuccessful. Calls to U.S. Postal Service headquarters in Washington and to the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center in Chicago seeking comment on operations during the shutdown were not returned.

Members of the House and Senate stayed late Sept. 30 but attempts to complete a deal before a shutdown were unsuccessful. Before adjourning, the House passed a resolution calling for a conference committee with the Senate to discuss the issues further. The resolution was rejected in the Senate Oct. 1 by a vote of 54 to 46, on mainly party lines, according to a report from NPR. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said the Senate would not go into negotiations with guns pointed at their heads, a Times report added.

The subject that had raised most concerns was the Affordable Care Act. This controversial health care reform law passed in 2010, also known as Obamacare, has been criticized by Republican House members. A continuing resolution seeing the government funded through Dec. 15 was rejected in the Senate because of the delay in the health care reform law.

Christina Mulka, a spokeswoman for Durbin, confirmed a clean continuing resolution, which removed language involving health care reform, was submitted to the House after its rejection. The House later rejected the Senate resolution. In a statement on the Senate floor prefacing the resolution, Durbin said letting the government shutdown was not responsible, and there would be a lot of hurt.

In an interview with NPR, Obama said he was happy to meet with Democrats and Republicans to discuss budget issues and shaping investments whether in education, infrastructure or economic growth.

“But we’re not going to accomplish those things if one party to this conversation says that the only way that they come to the table is if they get 100 percent of what they want and if they don’t, they threaten to burn down the house,” Obama said.

In remarks on the House floor Oct. 1, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said he was disappointed by the actions in the Senate, after the conference committee motion that was tied to funding the government, was rejected.

“Our country has big problems,” Boehner said. “Today, our government has big problems. The only way these problems are going to be resolved is if we sit down amicably and keep the American people in mind and come to an agreement.”

Separate bills to fund the National Park Service, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs and government services in the District of Columbia did not reach the two-thirds vote needed by the House to send the bill to the Senate Oct. 1, according to a report from USA Today.

Dr. Joseph Gaziano of Lewis’ Political Science department says he did not expect there to be a shutdown, but does not expect for it to last long.

“I was expecting that the government officials would learn from the last one that the public does not want to see the government shutting down and the failure of the Democrats and Republicans to work on solutions to solve political problems,” Gaziano said. “The public often prefers to have a divided government such as now with a Democratic president and Republicans in control of at least one house but shutdown is a symbol of a failure of the government and the public does not want to see that.”

Gaziano added that the public would place much of the blame on Republicans. However, Gaziano added that Democrats are not blameless, and expects there to be implications come midterm elections next year.

“It was received so poorly, I thought members of Congress would know better but that was a different group of people and you know what they say about history; if you don’t learn from it you will repeat it,” Gaziano said.

Alex Veeneman
Alex Veeneman's a journalist and a fan of music, public broadcasting, hockey and soccer. Veeneman is interested in world news and stories about the media. News Editor| Click here for Alex's Archives

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