The last government shutdown happened 17 years ago, in 1996, when the president and Congress couldn’t agree on a spending bill.
So what causes a shutdown?
The government has the legal authority under the Constitution to spend money by passing laws. When Congress disagrees on a spending bill, the government can no longer legally spend money.
The disagreement over the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, stems from a Republican-controlled House that does not wish to implement funding for the bill, and a Democratic Senate which wants the bill to be fully funded. With the fiscal year beginning on Tuesday, Oct. 1, and both parties standing their ground, a shutdown ensued.
All members of Congress agree that the 2.3 percent tax on medical devices that took effect at the beginning of 2013 should be undone. The Republican members of Congress proposed to do this in a funding bill that also sought a one-year delay on Obama’s Affordable Care Act, which was not well-liked by the Democratic members of Congress.
The shutdown will not affect the state-run Health Insurance Exchanges that opened Tuesday.
The mail will still come, and social security checks will still arrive. So what are the immediate effects?
Ben Shelton, a government professor at Coastal Bend College, said those who are being immediately affected by the shutdown are federal employees who have been labeled as “nonessential” and placed on furlough (a leave of absence).
More than 180,000 federal employees are at risk of not being able to report to work. Those who are considered essential will continue working while those placed on furlough are left with the uncertainty of when they will be able to go back to work or receive a paycheck.
“There are single parents who are not allowed to report to work, and they’re wondering how they will pay their bills,” Shelton said.
This includes employees at all U.S. national parks as they are currently closed, including the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park and the Padre Island National Seashore Park in Corpus Christi.
Federal loans, gun permits and passports will be difficult to obtain during this time, and veterans’ checks are expected to last only up to two or three weeks after the start of the shutdown.
Shutting down the government will undoubtedly cause the U.S. economy to take a hit. It is estimated that $1.6 billion a week will be lost in economic output. According to NBC News, that would translate to $300 million a day or $12.5 million an hour. The longer the shutdown lasts, the more severe the effects will be.
With the obvious amount of polarization between the Republicans and Democrats, Professor Shelton said the end of the shutdown depends on who can afford to be the most flexible.
“The president can afford to be the most flexible because his term is up, and he can’t get re-elected,” Shelton explained. “Members of the Senate have six-year terms while members of the House have two-year terms, so the members of the House are the most subject to losing their jobs.”
Shelton said as long as the president and the Senate continue to be inflexible, nothing will get accomplished.
Many news outlets are reporting that the state of Texas is in the middle of the shutdown drama, as Texas Republican Junior Sen. Ted Cruz has been extremely vocal about his opposition towards the health care law, vowing to halt funding.
On Monday, Cruz gave a marathon speech that lasted for 21 hours and 19 minutes, in which he discussed the need to defund Obamacare.
Cruz also pledged to donate his salary to charity each day the government is shutdown.
John Cornyn, senior U.S. senator from Texas, issued a statement on Tuesday calling on Congress and President Obama to open war memorials and monuments that have been closed due to the government shutdown, when he learned that 3,560 veterans were schedule to visit Washington on Honor Flight trips this month.
According to the Honor Flight Network, five of these flights will bring veterans from Texas, including 41 War World II veterans from the Dallas-Fort Worth region.
The shutdown will last until the Republican and the Democratic members of Congress can come to an agreement on the spending bill. That time frame could be a day, a week, or several weeks.
Sen. Cornyn spoke on the Senate floor on Tuesday about the shutdown.
“The American people are absolutely disgusted, I share their frustration,” he said, “I can only hope that cooler heads will prevail among our friends on the other side of the aisle.”