- THE MAGAZINE
The United States federal government entered a shutdown on Oct. 1, 2013, suspending services deemed "non-essential" by the Antideficiency Act.
The shutdown is a result of political conflicts between Democratic President Barack Obama, the Democratic-controlled Senate, and the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
These conflicts center on funding for and implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, popularily known as Obamacare. Oct. 1, 2013 is the first day of the 2014 federal fiscal year, which is also the date many of the Affordable Care Act's provisions went into effect. The health insurance exchanges provided for by the Affordable Care Act launched as scheduled on October 1.
It is the first U.S. federal government shutdown since the shutdown of 1995 and 1996.
If you were looking for data on the state of the economy, you’ll have to wait until after the “federal funding hiatus.” That could be a good thing, since one estimate in circulation suggests the cost to the U.S. economy of the failure by Congress to approve a funding bill is over $400 million per day.
Though the closure of national parks and some other highly visible operations were making the headlines, air traffic control and the postal service were slated to continue operations.
The Department of Commerce will furlough nearly 87 percent of its employees. DOC provides export assistance, and some of those programs may be affected.
About the same percentage of employees at the Department of Homeland Security will continue to work during the federal funding hiatus, as the spending freeze is referred to in DHS documents.
At the Department of Transportation, over 25,000 workers are excepted (or exempted) and will continue to work. Additional employees necessary to support those functions may also continue to work for all or part of the period.
One of the important tests for which positions are exempt or excepted is those “necessary for the protection of life and property.”
That means DHS will be continue to:
- Maintain criminal law enforcement operations, including drug and illegal alien interdiction.
- Continue passenger processing and cargo inspection functions at ports of entry.
- Provide the protective functions of the U.S. Secret Service.
- Maintain counter-terrorism watches or intelligence gathering or dissemination in support of terrorist threat warnings.
- Retain minimal personnel to maintain telecommunications as they relate to exempt activities.
A DHS document clarifies that to qualify under the exception of protection of human life or property, “There must be some reasonable likelihood that the safety of human life or protection of property would be compromised in some significant degree by the delay in the performance of the function in question. Specifically, the risk should be real, not hypothetical or speculative, and must be sufficiently imminent that delay is not permissible.”
Functions that will continue at DOT include:
- Air traffic control services;
- Maintenance and operation of navigational aids and other facilities, including support to reimbursable Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security activities;
- Flight Standards field inspections;
- Airmen medical certifications;
- Aircraft certification services (limited);
- Hazardous materials safety inspections;
- Security information communication services;
- Continuity of Operations Planning;
- Air Traffic Control Specialist (ATCS) medical clearances;
- Air traffic safety oversight (limited);
- On-call accident investigations;
- Commercial space launch oversight; (At least one of a succession of launches will occur between the end of September and the first week in October in support of the International Space Station.)
- Command, control, and communications (i.e., Regions and HQ Operations Centers);
- Foreign relations on aviation safety-related matters; and
- Safety and continuity of operations oversight for deployment of ERAM.
In addition, certain activities that will not be affected by a lapse in annual appropriations include:
- National aviation research, engineering, and development (RE&D) funded by multi-year appropriations;
- Airport inspections;
- Existing airport development grants;
- Passenger facility charge approvals; and
- Airport planning and environmental services funded by Airport Improvement Plan (AIP) contract authority.
On the eve of the shutdown, a CNN/ORC poll found that 46 percent of Americans would more strongly fault congressional Republicans in the event of a shutdown, as opposed to 36 percent who would primarily fault President Obama. General sentiment was against the shutdown, with 60 percent desiring a budget agreement and one-third of Americans believing it to be more important to prevent the implementation of the Affordable Care Act by cutting government funding.
Likewise, the predominant attitude towards Congress as a whole was one of strong dissatisfaction; in a Washington Post-ABC survey of Americans released on 30 September 2013, both parties suffered higher disapproval than approval ratings for their handling of budget negotiations, Democrats by a margin of 34 percent in approval to 56 percent in disapproval and Republicans by a margin of 26 percent approval to 63 percent disapproval.