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Congress reaches a $1.1 Trillion Plan

The United States Congress was unable to establish legislation that would delegate funds for the 2014 fiscal year, which resulted in regular government operations grinding to a halt and bringing the United States government to an effective shutdown from October 1 through to October 16. The shutdown was known to have caused grave uncertainty for many people, because somewhere around 800,000 federal employees were indefinitely furloughed for the duration of the shutdown, with another 1.3 million required to report to work without any known payment dates.

Why was there a shutdown?

The two chambers of Congress could not agree on reaching a funding resolution, with the deadlock primarily centering on two bills, the Affordable Care Act and the Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2014. The latter was passed by the House of Representatives on September 27 2013, but a more-stripped down edition than was preferred by the Democratic Party, which was depending on their key health policy to be bringing in the golden torch home, so-to-speak. This saw the House reinstating the measures that were removed by the Senate on September 29, but the Senate continued to disagree with the bill, in an effort to discourage the passing of the Affordable Care Act.

By the time the two parties warmed to the idea of a settlement bill, it was already the end of September 30 2013, causing the federal government to shut down due to a lack of suitable funds at the start of the fresh new 2014 fiscal year. It came to an end when late in the evening of October 16, Congress passed the Continuing Appropriations Act 2014. President Obama signed it shortly afterwards, a little after midnight on October 17, ending the government shutdown but only with the debt limit initially set until February 7 2014.

The Republicans lead the House of Representatives, and many senators, like Ted Cruz, and conservative groups of the sorts of Heritage Action, stood in the way of the passing of the bill, because it was inclusive of Obamacare. In response, the Democrats chose to amend many portions of the resolution to maintain funding for the new fiscal year, but to no avail. The Tea Party Republicans even went so far as to say that the health care law should not be funded, and would not stop budget negotiations unless they saw this law completely removed from the bill, even if that meant that a government shutdown would be in order. There was a long period of budget impasse, and yes, it eventually did lead to the American government to shut down.

Who was affected?

The Bureau of Indian Affairs ran essential programs during the shutdown, such as firefighting and police services, but tribal governments and impoverished reservations were stripped of funding. Programs such as those that provide income, food, transportation and foster care to communities were all closed off.

Businesses were also deeply affected; many companies had to furlough almost half of their staff, some couldn’t make deliveries or receive payments for work already performed, loans were delayed for SMEs, and even imports and exports at docks saw an interruption.

Washington, D.C. can only approve its local budget once the Congress stamps it with its seal of approval so the shutdown affected the city much more than its neighbouring states. Neighbourhood trash collection, motor vehicle services, and payments to personnel, judges and government workers were delayed for a long time, and government workers were made to come to work with no hope of seeing a paycheck anytime soon.

16 of the 58 immigration courts were closed, so decisions on political asylum cases were postponed, and this is the United States: it already has too high of a buildup of work. Low-income children fell out of access to comprehensive education and nutritious meals, US officials meetings with European Union diplomats, with respect to the proposed Transatlantic Free Trade Area, was curtailed because they could not travel to Brussels, museums and national parks were closed, tourism-related sales, stays at luxurious hotels, fine dining at restaurants amongst local communities were all stopped, so the tourism industry experienced a severe financial loss.

…and the American public?

The Democrats and the Republicans were blaming each other throughout the course of the shutdown but the public mood seemed one of high disappointment with government leaders, all-sides basically, but to be more specific, especially members of Congress, according to several polls conducted at the time, from a Fox News poll to a Gallup poll. Pre-shutdown the general sentiment amongst the American public with regards to the Affordable Care Act was divided, largely because most people had no clue what the law was about and how they were going to be affected by it, while many, surprisingly, were confused if this government health insurance plan would hamper the private health insurance plans running in the country, which it wouldn’t because they are on two separate divisions: public and private.

Americans, collectively, for the most part, were against the shutdown and wanted the healthcare law to be handled separately over the negotiations that were going on in Washington about funding government operations.

Tell me more about the intercontinental reactions!

Many members of the American media were blamed for their consistent side-favouring coverage, this time with the Democrats being the beneficiaries of all of the favouritism rather than the Republicans, while response to the situation at home and in other countries was one of staunch criticism.

Painted as being a disillusionment for voters, a grave reminder of how this could possess a mammoth risk to the global economy because of which public expenditure needs to always be controlled and harsh austerity measures implemented even if they are not always well-liked, and even political gerrymandering that is so widely active in America contributing to the shutdown, it was indeed a time of high-pressure and intense disparagement from our intercontinental friends.

The dollar fell early on October 1st and since the Republicans took control of the Senate in 2010, brawls in Congress have become commonplace. Many government staff continued to work despite the shutdown, although they were informed to stay at home without work and pay. Meanwhile, investors were looking at the prospect of another debt deal, rather than a budget which signaled a global indifference to the situation, despite the threat the shutdown possessed to America.

The 2014 Spending Bill

January 14 2014 finally saw a bipartisan compromise reached through September 30, just a couple of days before funding for federal agencies is clocked to fall. The $1.1 trillion measure covers money for US government operations, war financing, such as for defense exercises in Afghanistan, veterans benefits and improved postal services; President Obama has urged Congress to quickly pass the 2014 spending bill.

The American public will be pleased to know that the battle over Obamacare was set aside, because it was included in the bill unopposed, just to avert another possible shutdown that has been looming for sometime now. The federal government has been operating with the aid of a temporary bill that expired on January 15, so another brief bill to finance the government for the next few days is expected to be launched, to permit the Congress some room to approve the comprehensive bill that would be signed into law by President Obama.


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