How a Federal Government Shutdown Affects You

Here We Go Again.

News reports have been chattering about a possible government shutdown since July. Both Democrats and Republicans have been posturing and saber-rattling and making a lot of noise, but none of them bother to explain what that means for the public.

First, some background. Each federal fiscal, or budget, year begins on October 1 and ends on September 30. Fiscal year 2013 began on October 1, 2012 and ends on September 30, 2013. Fiscal year 2014 will begin on October 1, 2013. Federal law requires Congress and the president to agree on a final budget before each fiscal year begins. They couldn’t reach that agreement in 2012, so the United States government has been operating on a series of continuing resolutions since October 1. That means that the government can keep operating and paying its bills temporarily. When there is no funding, federal law requires the government to cease all non-emergency activities. The current resolution ends on Monday, September 30.

While it’s possible to operate on continuing resolutions, and without a real budget, indefinitely, it has been unlikely until now. The politicians usually make noise until one side or the other blinks. It appears that the Democrats have finally grown a spine and won’t give in this time.  But I could be wrong. Contrary to what many believe, the Constitution does not give all budgetary power to the House of Representatives or require budget bills to begin in the House. It doesn’t even require that Congress produce an annual budget. The Congressional Budget Act of 1974 does that, but not the Constitution.

Until we have a budget, the Republicans threaten to block new continuing resolutions and shut down the federal government unless the Democrats agree to eliminate all funding for the Affordable Care Act, also called Obamacare. President Obama has said that he will veto any bill which does that.

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