Federal Government Shutdown

At 12:01 AM on October 1st, much of the federal government shut down. The shutdown took place because Congress hasn’t enacted legislation to fund much of the federal government for Fiscal Year 2014, which began on October 1st.

My offices will remain open during the shutdown to assist constituents with questions surrounding the shutdown and other concerns, speak with federal agency workers who are not furloughed about remaining services for our district, and work with other Members of Congress to end this crisis.

In recent years, Congress has on multiple occasions enacted a “continuing resolution” that authorizes current funding levels for some period of time. These resolutions are usually non-controversial measures that allow the government to continue to function normally while Congress works to find common ground on future funding levels for government programs. Until Congress enacts a continuing resolution or a bill funding the federal government for all of FY 2014, every “non-essential” function of the federal government will shut down.

Republicans in the House of Representatives have refused to enact a continuing resolution unless President Obama and Democrats agree to defund, delay, or otherwise undermine the Affordable Care Act, a law that has already benefited millions of Americans and which will provide affordable healthcare for millions of Americans in the years to come.

In 2010, the Affordable Care Act was enacted by the House of Representatives and the Senate, and signed into law by President Barack Obama. In 2012, the Supreme Court held, by a vote of five to four with Chief Justice John Roberts (who was appointed by President George W. Bush) in the majority, that the law was constitutional. The health care law has been implemented within the requirement of both our Constitution and the Administrative Procedures Act, which controls the actions of federal agencies. It is, in short, the law of the land, which has passed constitutional scrutiny by the Supreme Court.

This historic legislation is already providing millions Americans security in their health coverage by prohibiting the denial of coverage due to pre-existing conditions, allowing individuals to stay on their parent's health plan by through the age of 26, prohibiting the denial of coverage due to pre-existing conditions, and ensuring access to free preventive healthcare. More importantly, the new health insurance Marketplaces that opened on October 1st will provide unprecedented access for Americans to high-quality, affordable health plans catered to their individual needs.

Most Americans who currently have health insurance won’t see many changes other than free preventive health care benefits and the elimination of a number of abusive private insurance industry practices. Roughly half will continue to get insurance coverage from their employers, and about a third are currently covered by government programs like Medicare and Medicaid.
 
Only about 15 percent of the public will end up getting their insurance through the new Health Insurance Marketplaces – primarily people who don’t have any insurance. But all Americans will benefit from the ACA’s consumer protections.
 
THIS is what Republicans want to shut the government down over. It’s clear to me that this government shutdown is a last-ditch effort by Congressional Republicans to dismantle one of the most important new programs in recent history – and that they’re willing to shut down the government and possibly default on the national debt in order to do so.

They’ve played this card several times before, and they’ll continue to do it until it stops paying off.

I will not allow them to hold the government, federal workers, and the American people hostage every year to advance their anti-worker, anti-Middle Class, anti-senior, anti-government agenda. I remain committed to finding a resolution to this unnecessary crisis as soon as possible, so that we can continue to focus on the recovery of our economy and on the real priorities of our nation: good jobs with benefits, strong economic growth, and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
Even many Republicans agree that using a government shutdown to force extreme legislative priorities is a mistake. Governor Chris Christie described the threat of a shutdown as “irresponsible.” Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma said “shutting down the government doesn’t work".

In terms of the specifics of a government shutdown, it is important to remember that the term “non-essential” covers every function of the federal government except those protecting life and property, relating to national security, and those necessary to pay benefits or contracts with funding still available. The list below briefly outlines services that will be affected due to a government shutdown:

Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security:
Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other mandatory programs will not be affected.

Federal Workers:
About 800,000 federal employees will be involuntarily furloughed, with their paychecks jeopardized or delayed. 

US Military:
The military's 1.4 million active-duty personnel will stay on duty. As the result of legislation passed on September 30, all active-duty military personnel will continue to be paid. About half of the Defense Department's civilian employees will be furloughed.

National Parks and Museums:
All national parks and federal wildlife refuges would be closed for the duration of the shutdown. About 9 million visitors were turned away from parks, museums and monuments run by the National Park Service during the last government shutdowns in the mid-1990s.

Science:
NASA will furlough almost all of its employees, but it will continue to keep workers at Mission Control in Houston and elsewhere to support the International Space Station. The National Weather Service will keep forecasting weather and issuing warnings, and the National Hurricane Center will continue to track storms.

Travel/Visas:
Federal air traffic controllers will remain on the job and airport will continue to operate security checkpoints; delays are possible. Federal inspectors will continue enforcing safety rules.

The State Department will continue processing foreign applications for visas and US applications for passports, since fees are collected to finance those services. Delays, however, are expected due to a shutdown. Embassies and consulates overseas will continue to provide services to American citizens.

Courts:
Federal courts will continue to operate normally for about 10 business days after the start of a shutdown. If the shutdown continues after that point, the judiciary would have to begin furloughs of employees whose work is not considered essential. Cases would continue to be heard, however, in such a case.

The US Supreme Court is scheduled to begin its new term on October 7. In previous government shutdowns, it continued to operate as normal.

Mail:
Deliveries would continue as usual because the US Postal Service receives no tax dollars for day-to-day operations. It relies on income from stamps and other postal fees to keep running.

Homeland Security:
The majority of the Department of Homeland Security's employees are expected to stay on the job, including uniformed agents and officers at the country's borders and ports of entry, members of the Coast Guard, Transportation Security Administration officers, Secret Service personnel, and other law enforcement agents and officers. US Citizenship and Immigration Services employees will continue to process green card applications.

Veterans Services:
Most services offered through the Department of Veterans Affairs will continue. Veterans will still be able to visit hospitals for inpatient care and mental health counseling, for example, or to get prescriptions filled at VA health clinics. Operators will still staff the crisis hotline, and claims workers will still process payments to cover disability and pension benefits.

Those veterans appealing the denial of disability benefits to the Board of Veterans Appeals will have to wait longer for a decision because the board would not issue any decisions during a shutdown.

Please feel free to contact my office if I can help you with a problem caused by the government shutdown – or any other issue, for that matter.

Mike Doyle
Member of Congress