Another Day, Another Possible Government Shutdown

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By C.N. Staff Writer

government_shutdownIts that time of year again where the federal government is threatening a federal shutdown.  However, District Mayor Vincent C. Gray says the city will not shutdown just because the federal government does.  In a city who’s budget comes from the federal government, political leaders continue to struggle with asserting their independence from congressional oversight.  The city has roughly 32,000 municipal employees who would report to work on Tuesday Oct 1st even if Congress doesn’t come up with a viable solution to avoid the shutdown.

House Democrats and Republicans are divided on the issue, once again, and this time the Republicans want to defund Obamacare in exchange for funding the government. But the health care act at the center of this storm would continue its implementation process during a shutdown. That’s because its funds aren’t dependent on the congressional budget process.  The government is set to run out of money on October 1 and the nation is set to hit the debt ceiling and go into default in mid-October.

House Speaker John Boehner said that the House “worked late into the night Saturday to prevent a government shutdown, and the Senate now must move quickly, today, to do the same.”  Republican Senator Ted Cruz, from Texas, held the Senate floor for 21 hours to dramatize his effort to block Obamacare.  In an interview with ABC This Week, Former President Bill Clinton criticized Republican demands, as well as their obsession with Obamacare. “I’ve never seen a time– can you remember a time in your lifetime when a major political party was just sitting around, begging for America to fail?” he said.

Late Saturday night into Sunday, the House voted to make major cuts and delays to the Affordable Care Act in exchange for continuing to fund the government, marking the 43rd time that House Republicans have voted to defund or repeal Obamacare.

“The reality of how so-called shutdowns work are that, retroactively, we pay every federal employee, including the ones that stay home. So from a practical standpoint in these short-term shutdowns, there is no money being saved by sending people home,” said Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. “I rather doubt that Congress would take punitive actions against the District of Columbia for keeping their personnel on,” he said.

“We have balanced our budget for 18 consecutive years and have well over a billion dollars in the bank. Yet, we cannot spend our own money to provide our residents with the services they’ve paid for unless we get permission from a Congress that can’t even agree to pay its own bills,” Gray said.  The mayor, who has repeatedly pressed for budget autonomy, was arrested in 2011 for protesting restrictions on how the local government could spend federal funds.

Keeping the government open could potentially defy the Anti-Deficiency Act, by keeping the entire city government running during a shutdown without the feds’ approval, but Gray has the backing of the council, particularly At-large Councilmember David Grosso who first introduced the idea of defying Congress.  Further, Council chairman Phil Mendelson introduced a bill that would keep the city running and Grosso said the District should build on the shutdown fight and start ignoring the portion of the Home Rule Charter that requires 30 days of congressional review for D.C. legislation.

There is no danger of the D.C. government running out of money in the event of a federal shutdown, Mendelson said.  The contingency fund on which the city would draw holds roughly $144 million, and the district payroll is $98 million for every two-week period, meaning that the government should be able to make one payroll period during the shutdown.  “I will not allow the safety and well-being of District residents to be compromised by Congress’s dysfunction,” Gray says in a statement.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) said in a press release that she will ask Congress to pass her District of Columbia Government Shutdown Avoidance Act of 2013, which would “would permanently prevent D.C. government shutdowns by authorizing the District government to spend its local funds in the event of a federal shutdown, just as every other jurisdiction in the country is permitted to do.”

The legislative back-and-forth, which has brought the government to the brink of what would be its 18th shutdown.  Non-essential D.C. employees were furloughed for several days in November 1995 during a federal government shutdown, though an agreement by congressional leaders spared local workers during a second shutdown the following month. Two years ago, District leaders made plans for a federal shutdown, but that was ultimately averted by a late agreement in Congress.

How the shutdown will affect D.C.:

The city will operate under its $144 million “rainy day” contingency fund.  This money will cover city expenses until October 13, according to the Office of the Chief Financial Officer.  If the shutdown continues past October 13th, then the city would have to restrict city operations to essential personnel.

District councilmember’s have vowed to create emergency legislation on October 1that o declare all D.C. workers essential and pay for government through the contingency fund.

How the shutdown will affect America:

All national parks, national museums and statues will close.  The Washington area could lose up to $200 million a day if the National Zoo, Smithsonian museums and other government-funded attractions are shuttered, authorities said.

Loans for your business, a new passport, gun permits will be delayed.  It is possible that those federal checks on social security could be delayed.

All federal workers will be furloughed, 800,000.  They could be furloughed without pay and a strong possibility of non-retroactive pay.

 

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