With a government shutdown due to begin Friday at midnight if Democrats and Republicans cant reach an agreement on the budget, questions about the impact of such an action are beginning to grow.
The looming government shutdown has its roots in 2010, when Democrats failed to pass a budget for fiscal year 2011 while they controlled the House and Senate. In January, Republicans in the House passed a budget covering the remainder of the 2011 fiscal year. Following the bills defeat in the Senate, the government has continued to run on continuing resolutions while budget negotiations have been ongoing.
With the current budget resolution set to expire, Democrats and Republicans are haggling over cuts ranging between $33 billion and $40 billion for the rest of the fiscal year budget. According to National Journal, some of the debate comes over so-called riders, such as defunding Planned Parenthood, and some comes over the size of the cuts being proposed.
On House Majority Leader Eric Cantors blog, he writes that House Republicans have offered three continuing resolutions to cut spending and prevent a government shutdown. The latest continuing resolution proposal, released Monday, would keep the government running for another week and asked for $12 billion in cuts, but was rejected by Democrats.
Cantor writes, without letting the ink dry on the House Republicans latest CR, the White House and Senate Democrats rejected the offer, thus admitting their willingness to shut down the government over less than 0.5 percent spending.
In a floor speech Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., argued that the Democrats only bottom line is to avoid a government shutdown.
We want to pass a budget that makes smart cuts — cuts that save money, but that dont cost jobs, Reid said. This has been our bottom line throughout this process, so weve made tough choices. Weve made those choices because we know that at this late stage of the game, reality is more important than ideology. We know that sacrifices are the cost of consensus, and we think theyre worth it.
While the country wonders about the impact of a government shutdown, a single question is emerging: does the rhetoric match the reality?
According to various news sources, a government shutdown would have possibly serious consequences for some. An estimated 800,000 nonessential federal employees would be furloughed, the Federal Housing Authority would stop processing loan guarantees, the Environmental Protection Agency would stop issuing permits and the Small Business Administration would stop processing direct small-business loans.
However, other less serious consequences are also being reported, such as the possible cancellation of the Washington cherry blossom parade; the closing of national parks, the Smithsonian Institution, the Capitol Visitor Center and the Botanic Gardens; and Capitol Hill staffers having to turn in their BlackBerrys.
In the case of a shutdown, questions about national security are most prominent and worrying.
On the national security side, NPR reports that activities considered necessary for the safety of life and protection of property would continue, including law enforcement, air traffic control, Department of Homeland Security functions and the military.
Geoff Morrell, a Pentagon spokesman, told Foreign Policy that, in the event of a government shutdown, the Defense Department would retain the ability and the authority to continue to protect our vital interests around the world, to continue to safeguard the nations security, to wage the wars were fighting and the operations that we are conducting right now.
Foreign Policy reports that a government shutdown would result in members of the military not receiving paychecks. While they would still continue to be paid, the money would not be distributed until the government resumed work.
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