In U.S. politics, a government shutdown is a situation in which the government stops providing all but “essential” services. Typically, services that continue despite a shutdown include police, fire fighting, the National Weather Service and its parent agencies, the postal service, armed forces, utilities, air traffic management, and corrections (the penal system).
A shutdown can happen when a legislative body (including the legislative power of veto by the executive) cannot agree on a budget financing its government programs for a pending fiscal year. In the absence of appropriated funds, the government discontinues providing non-essential services at the beginning of the affected fiscal year. Government employees who provide essential services, often referred to as “essential employees,” are required to continue working.
Specifically, in the case of the United States federal government, the Anti-deficiency Act, together with legal opinions, particularly one written by Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti in 1981, define what is and is not allowed in the absence of an appropriation.
A federal government shutdown causes a large number of civilian federal employees to be furloughed. Military personnel are not furloughed, but may not be paid as scheduled.
The exact details of which government functions would stop during a shutdown is determined by the Office of Management and Budget. However, some specific aspects have applied to all shutdowns in the past. Among these is the closure of national parks and passport offices.”Emergency personnel” continue to be employed, including the military, border agents, doctors and nurses working in federal hospitals, and air traffic controllers. Members of Congress continue to be paid, because their pay cannot be altered except by direct law. Mail delivery is not affected as it is self-funded.
Shutdowns in the past have also affected the Washington, D.C. municipal government, putting a stop to utilities such as garbage collection; this can include schools, though shutdowns evidently occur during the weekend.
“I’ve made it clear now for months and month and months,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Thursday. “We have no interest in seeing a government shutdown. But we’ve got to address the spending problems that we have in this town. And so there will be options available to us. There’s not going to be any speculation about what we’re going to do or not do until the Senate passes their bill.”
If Congress fails to send President Obama a bill before Tuesday, the outcome would impact the economy, though not catastrophically. There have been brief gaps in government funding before, as well as two government shutdowns in 1995-1996 that stemmed from partisan budget battles similar to today’s problems. The government shut down for five days in November 1995 when President Clinton and the GOP-led Congress were at odds over government spending, and it shut down again in December for 21 days. According to government estimates, those shutdowns cost taxpayers $1.4 billion.
If Democrats and Republicans don’t reach a spending deal by midnight Monday, a partial government shutdown will take effect. The effect of the shut down on the Housing market is yet unknown.
The 2013 fiscal year ends at midnight Monday. Many federal programs and activities will stop beginning Tuesday and won’t restart until a new deal is in place.
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