Without a last-minute deal, the government will start to shut down at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday. The House and Senate have yet to agree on a spending bill, and the fiscal year ends Monday. The House wants anti-Obamacare amendments in the bill; the Senate doesn’t. If the government shuts down, more than 783,000 will be furloughed.
A shutdown, while likely, isn’t a foregone conclusion. The deadline is midnight — and one day can be a long time on Capitol Hill.
Why Government Shut down: Congress has one key duty laid out in the Constitution — pass spending bills that fund the government. If it doesn’t, most of the functions of the government — from paying the military to funding small business loans to processing passport requests — would grind to a slow-motion halt.
Why is it now: It may be the middle of the calendar year. But the government’s fiscal year runs from October 1 to September 30.
House Republicans insist the spending bill include anti-Obamacare amendments. Senate Democrats are just as insistent that it doesn’t.
The health care law isn’t directly tied to funding the government, but it’s being used as a bargaining chip. A group of Republicans, led by freshman Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, despises the president’s signature health care plan so much that it’s willing to risk government shutdown or default.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the actual name of the law, requires all Americans to have health insurance. Opponents say it’ll hurt employers and amounts to overreach by the federal government. Some have also criticized the medical device tax that’s part of the law, saying that by imposing such a tax, it’s basically sending jobs overseas.
Democrats’ say the law will expand access to health care and help rein in the rising costs of coverage. Obamacare prevents those with pre-existing medical conditions from being denied health insurance, and proponents say those who have health insurance will no longer have to indirectly pay for those who show up in emergency rooms uninsured.
The Republican-dominated House passed two spending bill amendments Sunday morning — one that would delay Obamacare for a year, and one that would repeal the Obamacare’s medical device tax. The bill now goes back to the Senate, where Democrats who control that chamber have consistently said any changes to Obamacare would be a deal-killer.
The Senate will meet at 2 p.m. ET — 10 hours before the deadline. The Senate will send its version of the bill — one without any changes to Obamacare — back to the House.
If the Senate rejects the bill, the House will reconvene “in enough time” and send another provision, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy told “Fox News Sunday.” But he said the next bill the House passes will involve Obamacare in some way.
If nothing changes, the government shut down for the first time since late 1995. That one lasted 21 days, into 1996.
What happens: Draw up a dividing line between workers deemed essential or non-essential. Those in the first category will carry on operations. The others will power down until Congress comes to its senses and funds the government. Most of the 3.3 million government workers are deemed “essential” — they’ll keep working. But more than 783,000 government employees will sit at home.
If lawmakers reach an agreement by late Monday night, but the funding bill hasn’t made it to the president’s desk, the government can ignore a short lapse in funding and carry on in good faith knowing that it will. The last time that happened was in April 2011.