Today we are witnessing an uncommon situation which has happened 18 times in the history of the USA. The government is in shutdown, which means that only essential services will be provided. The only agencies that will continue their work despite the situation are the Postal Service, Air Traffic Control, the National Weather Service and the penal system.
The Constitution assures that there is separation of power in the federal government by allowing its different branches to be controlled by different political parties. The House and the Senate must achieve consensus about the budget, which is then passed onto the President for signing. The President can also use his right of veto, which results in the budget being returned to the Congress, and it then needs a two-third vote in favour. A government shutdown happens when Congress and the President can’t settle the discord about the budget before its existing cycle ends. Being from different political factions makes it hard to achieve settlement about progressive or costly politics, such as Obamacare.
This type of event is practically unique to the U.S, because almost everywhere else in the modern political world the ruling party controls both the executive and the legislative systems. The lack of communication between those can bring down the government and start new a round of elections.
The last time that the government was in shutdown was in 1995, when the then President Bill Clinton proposed budget with the Office of Management and Budget numbers instead of those from Congressional Budget Office, as demanded by the Republicans. Clinton refused that proposition, which caused the state lockdown. After hard discussions the Congress and the President reached a compromise on the budget.
Presently there is a discord between the Senate, The House and the President about the budget funds for President Obama’s health care law. As they did not reach consensus by the midnight of September 30, the state have gone into shutdown. The government is bound to run out of money in 10 days.
What does this mean for normal people? All the government employees will go to furlough or unpaid leave. Only those with crucial work placement will stay, some of them without pay. The President and his appointees are not subject to the furlough, as the ones working in the security or public health. The Obama’s administration was prepared for this scenario – the agencies got told to plan partial shutdown in advance. The managers had to select essential employees and request their work presence, and the ones viewed as non-essential will be sent home.
There will be not only political tension around the new budget, but also social unrest if this situation isn’t resolved quickly. The three branches of power need to work together to reach an agreement as soon as possible.