Without deal, government shuts down

Congress couldn’t agree on a budget plan by the Sept. 30 deadline.

Nathaniel Rabuzzi

For the first time in 17 years, the U.S. federal government has shut down.

Nonessential federal offices and departments will close their doors, agencies will run on minimal staff, and several programs will face delays until a budget resolution is passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama.

Nearly 800,000 federal government employees will be furloughed — put on a temporary, unpaid leave — and those remaining won’t be paid.

But the effects of the shutdown reach past the federal government.

“A lot of people are affected beyond furloughed federal employees, particularly the longer a shutdown lasts,” said Kathryn Pearson, an associate professor in political science at the University of Minnesota.

After the U.S. Senate passed a budget resolution Friday, Republicans in the House of Representatives added an amendment that would delay implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

Because of that amendment, most democrats in Congress don’t support the budget bill as is. This kept it from being passed by Sept. 30, the end of the federal fiscal year, and caused the shutdown.

“For the majority of Republicans, it seems … that altering the Affordable Care Act is a bigger priority than keeping the government open,” Pearson said.

The shutdown will have some impact on higher education, though many University students said they’re unaware of what that will entail.

According to the U.S. Department of Education’s contingency plan, federal student loans and Pell grants will be dispersed as regularly scheduled because the funding for those programs is from permanent and multi-year appropriations — deals that don’t rely on the current resolutions for federal funding.

But higher education programs for disadvantaged students may experience a delay in federal funding because of the shutdown, according to the contingency plan.

Legislators are exempt from the furlough so they can continue to work for a resolution, but they have to choose which of their staffers can keep working.

The Department of Homeland Security, considered essential, will furlough only 14 percent of its employees, compared to nearly 100 percent in some other departments.

Government agencies and services — like the U.S. Postal Service, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — will stay open but will likely function less efficiently, Pearson said.

Programs like national parks and NASA will lose nearly all of their employees until a budget agreement that satisfies both parties passes Congress.

Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., whose district includes the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, said on the House floor Monday that Congress should work toward agreements so “federal employees can pay their mortgage, can buy groceries and can have a future.”

Pearson said the shutdown could have similar effects to the last federal shutdown during the Bill Clinton administration.

That shutdown lasted 21 days and was the longest in U.S. history.

“It took a toll on the federal work force, on the economy and on public approval ratings of Republicans in Congress,” Pearson said.

To end the shutdown, Congress must create a “continuing resolution” that would keep the government open for at least another month, Pearson said.

“It is hard to imagine exactly what a compromise … would look like,” she said.