The government shutdown has entered week three without a compromise in sight (although some senators claim they're making progress). Here's some of the key points to know about the shutdown, according to CNN.
1. Why did the 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 -- grind to a slow-motion halt.
2. Why does it have to pass a spending bill in the middle of the year? It may be the middle of the calendar year. But the government's fiscal year runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30.
3. What's the holdup? House Republicans initially insisted the spending bill include anti-Affordable Care Act amendments. Senate Democrats are just as insistent that it doesn't. After talks between House Speaker John Boehner and President Barack Obama collapsed, negotiations have moved to the Senate, where some senators are reporting progress but no firm compromise just yet. Calls for changes to the Affordable Care Act are no longer nearly as loud, but Republicans are still asking for some kind of spending compromise while Democratic leaders are still insisting that the government just needs to reopen with no strings attached before spending negotiations continue.
4. How is the Affordable Care Act tied to funding the government? 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 has been willing to risk government shutdown or default. The Republicans, though, are blaming the Democrats, saying they're the ones who refuse to compromise on the law or negotiate at all.
5. What are some of the objections to the Affordable Care Act? The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the full 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.
6. What's the Democrats' defense? They say the law will expand access to health care and help rein in the rising costs of coverage. The Affordable Care Act 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.
7. What happened with the spending bill in the days before the shutdown? The Republican-dominated House passed two spending bill amendments Sunday morning -- one that would delay the Affordable Care Act for a year, and one that would repeal the Affordable Care Act's medical device tax. The bill then went back to the Senate, where Democrats who control that chamber have consistently said any changes to the Affordable Care Act would be a deal-killer. Sure enough, the Senate once again stripped the health care amendments from the bill and sent it back to the House. The House then added the provisions back in and sent it back to the Senate.
8. Has there been any progress at all? Talks between President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner fell apart Saturday morning when the president rejected Boehner's plan to lift the debt limit for only six weeks. Since then, negotiations have moved to the Senate in what Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid described as "productive." However, Democratic leaders are still saying the government needs to reopen with "no strings attached" and Republicans still want some kind of spending compromise before the government reopens, which is likely why Reid shot down a proposal pushed primarily by Maine Republican Susan Collins, that would lift the debt ceiling until 2014, fund the government until March and postpone a tax on medical devices. Reid said the proposal treats opening the government as a "concession." Even so, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, who is part of the Collins group, sounded an optimistic tone Monday morning, saying "we're 70 percent, 80 percent there." He said they have a template, and leadership needs to finalize the details, including how much Congress is going to allocate to fund the government.
9. When was the last government shutdown? Late 1995. That one lasted 21 days, into 1996. This is the 18th time the government has shut down.
10. Why are some national parks and monuments closed and some aren't? The shutdown began with government services being divided between essential functions -- those that must remain up and running during the shutdown -- and nonessential. Sincenational parks and monuments were deemed nonessential, park rangers locked up national parks and monuments, and most furloughed federal workers were supposed to be out of their offices within four hours of the start of business Oct. 1. Since then, some states have stepped in, using their own money to pay the National Parks Service to reopen popular attractions paid for by the federal government. For instance, New York state will pay $61,600 a day to open the Statue of Liberty, Utah is paying up to $166,572 per day to reopen its eight national parks and Arizona is footing the $93,000-a-day bill to reopen Grand Canyon National Park for at least seven days.
11. How many government workers are being furloughed? Most of the 3.3 million government workers are deemed "essential" -- they're still working, but most won't get their full paychecks until the shutdown ends. Many workers initially deemed nonessential have since been called back to work -- most of the 400,000 workers furloughed by the Department of Defense were being called back to work last week, and others are back on the job after some states offered to pay to reopen national parks in their states. According to a CNN estimate released Oct. 8, about 483,000 employees are still furloughed, amounting to about 14 percent of federal workers. Additionally, the House of Representatives passed a special bill to ensure that furloughed government workers get paid once federal coffers are refilled. The Senate has yet to act, but Obama has said he will sign it.
12. What will this do to the economy? Depends on how long it lasts. Before the government shutdown started, Mark Zandi, chief economist and co-founder of Moody's Analytics, said a shutdown of three or four weeks "would do significant economic damage" -- reducing GDP by 1.4 percentage points for the quarter. Also, as the Oct. 17 deadline to raise the debt ceiling looms and merges into the shutdown debate, investors are getting nervous -- stocks fell in early trading on Monday. The international financial community is also getting nervous. As top financial officials from around the world gathered in Washington over the weekend, Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, said the consequences of a failure to raise the debt limit would be dire for economies around the world.
13. How does this affect me? In ways big and small. The mail will continue to come. The military will continue to fight. And Social Security checks will continue to be paid. But if you need a federal loan to buy a house, you'll have to wait. If you want a gun permit or a passport, that won't happen anytime soon.
14. Will the shutdown kill the Affordable Care Act? It hasn't yet; in fact, the state exchanges opened on Oct. 1 and people have started signing up (although there have been many complaints about glitches in the new health care exchange websites that are making it difficult or impossible for many people to create the accounts needed to purchase insurance). Most of the money for the Affordable Care Act comes from new taxes and fees, as well as from cost cuts to other programs like Medicare and other types of funding that continue even when the government shuts down.
15. Does the president get paid during a shutdown? Yes. His salary -- $400,000 -- is considered mandatory spending. It won't be affected.
16. What about House and Senate members? They're still drawing checks, too. But several have said they're going to donate the pay they receive during the shutdown.
17. What does John Q. Public think of all this? A CNN/ORC International poll that came out Oct. 1 found that 46 percent would blame congressional Republicans if the government closes its doors, with 36 percent saying the president would be more responsible and 13 percent pointing fingers at both. Another CNN/ORC International poll released Oct. 7 found 63 percent of those questioned said they were angry at the Republicans for the way they have handled the shutdown, 57 percent were angry at congressional Democrats and 53 percent were angry at President Barack Obama.
18. Isn't there another matter -- the debt ceiling? Ah yes, that's the next battle brewing. Remember that time when you maxed out your credit card? That's what the debt limit is all about. The U.S. is on the verge of maxing out its $16.699 trillion credit card. And the president must ask Congress to raise the country's credit limit. Like the potential shutdown, this is also a Washington-manufactured crisis. And it too is being used for leverage to undermine the Affordable Care Act.
19. So what's the latest on the debt ceiling? Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has warned Congress is "playing with fire" by threatening not to raise the debt ceiling. Lew has also said the debt ceiling needs to be raised by Oct. 17. International Monetary Fund head Christine Lagarde said Saturday the consequences of a failure to raise the debt limit would be dire for economies around the world. "You know, I've just spent the last two days with representatives of about 188 countries around the world. I wouldn't say they are confident. I would say they are concerned, and they are very anxious to see this crisis resolved, because they know it's going to impact on their economy," Lagarde said. Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin has said a framework for a deal to raise the debt ceiling and end the government shutdown is done, but Manchin and moderate GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who have spearheaded the bipartisan talks, warned more work needs to be done.
20. What if they can't reach a deal on the debt ceiling? Lawmakers would have to cut discretionary spending, including defense spending, by a third every month; cut mandatory spending, which includes Social Security, by 16 percent, or raise taxes by 12 percent -- or some combination of all three. Otherwise, the government would fall about $30 billion short each month, the Congressional Research Service estimates.
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