Government & Politics

The Lights Are Off, but Somebody's Home

So the government shut down. What now?

Oct. 2, 2013

Parts of the federal government ceased functioning at full throttle Monday at midnight, leaving Congress considering what to do next. Republicans are shifting strategy now that the baseline has changed – shutdown is now reality. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), who along with Ted Cruz led the Senate effort to defund ObamaCare, called for “ending the shutdown step by step” so that important government functions like the military don’t “get caught up in this ObamaCare fight.”

House Republicans are working on such a piecemeal approach to fund the government through mid-December, as well as requesting a conference committee to hammer out differences. House leadership sought to pass several bills funding portions of the government under a suspension of the rules, which would require a two-thirds majority, but the 20-30 Democrats who joined Republicans on each bill weren’t enough.

Senate Democrats, meanwhile, are offering, well, nothing. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) refuses to consider anything but a “clean” Continuing Resolution – one that funds the government at current levels with no other strings attached. “We will not go to conference with a gun to our head,” Reid said. Indeed, the Senate rejected the conference proposal along party lines. As for funding in smaller parts, Reid dismissed it as “just another wacky idea from the Tea Party-driven Republicans.”

For his part, Barack Obama insists that ObamaCare “is settled, and it is here to stay.” He warned Republicans, “You can’t shut it down.” He also hammered the “Republican shutdown … over an ideological crusade,” declared that he “shouldn’t have to offer anything,” and threatened to veto any piecemeal funding. Well, it takes two to tango.

Finally, it’s worth noting that even after the shutdown, “essential” services remained: Airports are open, the military is on duty and Social Security checks are going out. And when things like the World War II Memorial are closed, veterans didn’t let that stop them. On the other hand, Obama is postponing his trip to Asia and – you might want to sit down for this – updates to the first lady’s Twitter account “will be limited.”

As for the non-essential services, the Washington Examiner’s Mark Tapscott asks, “If these career civil service employees aren’t doing essential work in government, why are the American people spending more than $100 billion annually to pay them? That’s precisely the kind of question that a government with a $17 trillion national debt literally cannot afford not to ask.”

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