Political Primer

Everything You Need to Know About the Looming Government Shutdown

With the government on the brink of a shutdown, The Daily Beast rounds up the five best explainers on the mess in Washington.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Lawmakers just can't seem to get their acts together when it comes to dealing with the budget. Congressional Republicans want to delay funding Obamacare for one year in exchange for passing a continuing resolution that would allow the government to keep operating. But Democrats are standing firm on their position that health care reform isn't on the table. As Congress continues to wrangle over whether to fund the government, the midnight deadline is quickly approaching. Here are five articles to get you up to speed on what's going on in Washington.

The latest updates

The New York Times

The New York Times's fiscal crisis blog has the latest updates on where negotiations stand. Over the weekend, the House passed a bill that would keep the government funded, but would force a one-year delay of Obamacare and repeal one of the taxes that pay for the health care law. The bill was a non-starter as Senate Democrats are holding firm in their refusal to vote for a measure that includes anything to do with health care reform.

The most complete primer

Gregory Korte, USA Today

Gregory Korte at USA Today wrote what is probably the most complete primer on the shutdown. It's a 66 question-and-answer list covering everything from the longest shutdown in history (21 days) to whether federal agencies can ignore the shutdown. (They can't. Spending taxpayer money without Congressional approval is a felony.) The piece also points out that even if the government closes, the state-run exchanges established under Obamacare will still open on Tuesday.

Why us?

Graeme Wearden, The Guardian

While a shutdown is possible in the United States, it doesn't really happen in other countries, explains The Guardian. In Britain, for example, tax and spending measures are enacted into law in the House of Commons, where they essentially become a confidence vote in the government. "Even the most fractious backbench [Member of Parliament] would balk at rebelling on it," the article notes.

What happens in a shutdown?

Brad Plumer, The Washington Post

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This Washington Post piece explains what will happen if the shutdown comes to pass. Employees whose jobs relate to national security— like military personnel—will still have to report to work, as will those who perform essential services like air traffic control, border patrol, law enforcement, banking oversight, and disaster assistance. But their paychecks for work during the shutdown may be delayed until the government is back up and running. Members of Congress, on the other hand, will continue to be paid no matter what happens thanks to the 27th amendment, which states that no changes can be made to lawmakers' salaries until after an election.

But that’s not even the biggest issue…

Jon Favreau, The Daily Beast

Even if we avert the shutdown, another crisis is looming just around the corner. Daily Beast columnist Jon Favreau reminds us that lawmakers still have to agree to raise the debt limit by the middle of October or the government won't be able to pay the bills it's already incurred. If Republicans refuse to vote for the measure, the results could be catastrophic. "A failure to raise the debt limit would inflict far more pain on far more people than a government shutdown," Favreau writes. "Breaching the debt limit would trigger an economic shutdown of epic proportions."