The United States government started a partial shutdown early Tuesday morning. Orders for a shutdown were issued shortly after midnight, when Congress couldn’t reach an agreement that would be accepted by Senate. This is the first time in 17 years a government shutdown has gone into effect.
Republicans and Democrats are arguing over President Obama’s health care law. Because Congress wants to pass a temporary funding measure that would delay the health care law and Senate will not agree to a bill that defunds Obamacare, about 800,000 federal workers are now off the job. Most non-essential federal programs and services are closed. The closure impacts national parks, museums, the Environmental Protection Agency, and NASA among others. Essential government employees, which include air traffic controllers, food inspectors and law enforcement will remain on the job. The health care law itself has not been impacted as open enrollment got underway Tuesday morning for millions of people in the market for finding medical insurance.
Legislation was passed by the House and Senate, then signed by the president, to ensure the military is paid. Other federal workers will not receive paychecks until an agreement is reached and the shutdown ends. Federal workers were told to report to work for a half-day on Tuesday, but only to perform essential tasks related to the shutdown, such as changing email greetings and phone messages. Agencies are either closing down websites temporarily or posting notes on the sites explaining there is a shutdown and that services are not being provided for the time being.
The United States Postal Service, which is self-funded, will continue to operate. The government will continue to pay Social Security benefits. Food and Nutrition Service SNAP benefits, also known as food stamps, will be paid as usual. It has also been indicated that doctors will be reimbursed Medicaid and Medicare fees on time.
On Monday, the Senate rejected House passed bills twice. The first bill would have kept the government open but would delay portions of the 2010 Obamacare law, giving everyone an extra year to purchase health insurance. The House passed the bill again early Tuesday. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said that it will not pass when presented to Senate for a third time on Tuesday morning. No one is certain how long the stand-off will leave the government shutdown. It has become a showdown between the Republican led House and the Democrat run Senate.
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