Cheat Sheet: The Government Shutdown

How many times in the past couple of weeks have you heard something about our government being shut down and Congressional compromise? Probably a lot. Words like “furlough” and “debt ceiling” have been thrown around a lot and it can be confusing enough to cause a major headache. Avoid the pain and take a look at the cheat sheet to the government shutdown.

The Background

  • On October 1st, the United States government shut down after Congress failed to pass a spending bill. In order for the government to spend money and operate, Congress needs to give it permission. It does this with a bill. When the Democrats and Republicans couldn’t reach a compromise and didn’t pass a bill by the deadline, the government lost funding and was forced to shut down.
  • The shutdown meant that anything that operates on government funds was closed. This included all national parks and monuments and most government organizations. The nonessential government employees were furloughed, meaning they didn’t work, or get paid.

The Solution

  • The government owes a lot of money in loans, and there is a limit on how much they can borrow without going into default and severely impacting the U.S. economy. This limit is called the debt ceiling. Congress had until October 17th to raise the debt ceiling, or the country would go into default. The effect of this would be much worse than the effect of a government shutdown.
  • The Democrats drew up a bill that funded the government and raised the debt ceiling. This bill basically “has no strings attached,” meaning that it didn’t include anything like the defunding of Obamacare, it simply deals with funding and debt.
  • The bill also says that government workers who were furloughed will receive back pay for the time they did not work.
  • Because of the time crunch, the bill passed through both the House and the Senate with an overwhelming majority.
  • Where does this put us? Basically where we started.

What happens next?

  • For now, closed parks, monuments, organizations and services are reopened and furloughed government workers are back at work.
  • The bill that passed only funds the government until January 15, 2014 and says that the debt ceiling needs to be revisited after February 7th. So many analysts think that we may see the same debate happen again in early 2014.


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