If you’re like me and just about everyone else then you are trying to figure out what exactly does this whole government shut down mean FOR REAL. Will it affect my everyday life or is it all just political drama? Get just about all your questions about the shutdown answered below.
According to USAToday:
1. What causes a shutdown? Under the Constitution, Congress must pass laws to spend money. If Congress can’t agree on a spending bill — or if, in the case of the Clinton-era shutdowns, the president vetoes it — the government does not have the legal authority to spend money.
2. What’s a continuing resolution? Congress used to spend money by passing a budget first, then 12 separate appropriations bills. That process has broken down, and Congress uses a stopgap continuing resolution, or CR, that maintains spending at current levels for all or part of the year.
3. Why can’t Congress agree? The Republican-controlled House has passed a spending bill that maintains spending levels but does not provide funding to implement the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. The Democratic Senate insists that the program be fully funded and that Congress pass what they call a “clean” CR.
4. What is a “clean” CR?A continuing resolution without policy changes.
5. Why is this happening now? The government runs on a fiscal year from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30. Shutdowns can happen at other times of the year when Congress passes a partial-year spending bill.
6. Could government agencies ignore the shutdown? Under a federal law known as the Anti-Deficiency Act, it can be a felony to spend taxpayer money without an appropriation from Congress.
7. When would a shutdown begin? When the fiscal year ends at midnight Monday. Most federal workers would report to work Tuesday, but unless they’re deemed “essential,” they would work no more than four hours on shutdown-related activities before being furloughed.
8. When would the shutdown end? Immediately after the president signs a spending bill. As a practical matter, it could be noon the following day before most government offices that were shut down would reopen their doors.
9. How many times has the government shut down in the past? Since 1977, there have been 17 shutdowns, according to the Congressional Research Service.
10. How long do shutdowns usually last? Most last no more than three days. Some last less than a day.
11. When was the longest shutdown in history? The longest was also the most recent: from Dec. 16, 1995, through Jan. 5, 1996. That’s 21 days.
12. Would this shutdown be different from those in the 1990s? Yes. When the 1995 shutdown started, Congress had already passed three of 13 appropriations bills. (They funded military construction, agriculture, and energy and water projects.) Also, more government services are automated.
THE DEBT LIMIT
13. What’s the difference between a shutdown and a debt crisis? In a shutdown, the government lacks the legal authority to spend money on non-essential services. In a debt crisis, the government is mandated to spend money — but doesn’t have the legal authority to borrow the money to spend it.
14. Are the two related? Only by timing, which is somewhat coincidental.
15. When will the government run out of borrowing authority? Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew says it could come as soon as Oct. 17.
16. Has the United States ever defaulted on its debt before? No.
17. If the nation hits the debt limit, will government shut down? That’s a big unknown question. The Treasury Department has said the most likely scenario is that it would delay payments, paying only those bills it can afford, using daily tax revenue.
18. Will I still get my mail? Yes. The U.S. Postal Service functions as an independent business unit.
19. Can I get a passport? Maybe, but hurry. The Department of State says it has some funds outside the annual congressional appropriation. “Consular operations domestically and overseas will remain 100% operational as long as there are sufficient fees to support operations,” the department says.
20. Can I visit national parks? No. The National Park Service says day visitors will be told to leave immediately, and entrances will be closed.
21. What about campers already in the parks? They will be given two days to leave.
22. Will Washington museums be open? The Smithsonian, the National Zoo and the Holocaust Museum would all be closed. Private museums, such as the Newseum, the Spy Museum and Mount Vernon, would remain open. Rule of thumb: If it’s usually free, it’s probably closed.
23. What about the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts? The Kennedy Center does receive an annual appropriation from Congress, but also runs on ticket revenue and endowment funds. The center expects to stay open through a shutdown.
24. What about the National Archives?All archives and most presidential libraries will be closed, unless they’re operated by a private foundation — as all pre-Herbert Hoover presidential museums are. The Federal Records Center Program, which supports other agencies, would continue to operate because it uses a revolving fund.
25. Will the District of Columbia shut down? The district does not have complete autonomy and relies on an appropriation from Congress to operate. So during the shutdowns in the 1990s, trash went uncollected, and many city departments closed. In a departure from past shutdowns, Mayor Vincent Gray has informed the Office of Management and Budget that he has deemed all city employees “essential.” The district’s own attorney general has declared the mayor’s plan illegal.
26. Will the Patent and Trademark Office be open? Yes. The office can continue to operate off user fees and other funds for at least four weeks before having to shut down.
27. Would food safety inspections continue? Mostly. The Food Safety and Inspection Service would continue all safety-related activities. The Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration would continue inspections to the extent they’re paid by user fees, “but inability to investigate alleged violations could hamper corrective action in the long term and could have an immediate impact on members of industry.” The Food and Drug Administration would limit its activities but continue to monitor recalls and conduct investigations.