HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT/CNN) – Ticktock. Ticktock.
Just over a week remains. If the Democrats and Republicans don’t stop bickering and agree to how the U.S. should pay its bills, the federal government will shut down on October 1.
And at a time when the economy’s finally showing signs of life, that could be troubling.
But Madison Mayor Troy Trulock says he is hopeful leaders in Washington will strike a deal before a shutdown. Trulock says even if there is shutdown, his experience has been things are not as bad as some people are threatening.
“I am a former military officer and have been through lots of government shutdown threats and a few actual shutdowns, but we have survived and I am hopeful our leaders will come up with a deal,” Trulock says.
Even with Trulock’s optimism the fact is shutdowns don’t come cheap. Federal agencies have to use up time, energy and resources to plan for one. Shutting down and then reopening the government also costs money.
But what would a shutdown mean for you? Would your daily life be affected?
Here are 10 ways a government shutdown would affect you.
10. Vacation all I ever wanted: Need to get away? Well, you can’t. At least not to national parks. Or to national zoos. Or to national museums. They’d all be closed. That’s 368 National Park Service sites closed, millions of visitors turned away.
Were you thinking more along the lines of a trip to France? If you don’t already have a passport, you could bid that adieu. It’s unlikely you’d get your blue book in time. The last time the government threw a hissy fit, 200,000 applications for passports went unprocessed. Tourism and airline revenues reeled.
9. Holiday. Celebrate: Don’t come to work if you’re a federal employee. You’re on furlough. (Offer not valid for workers in “critical services,” such as air traffic controllers, hazardous waste handlers and food inspectors.)
Do take some time to celebrate. In previous shutdowns, everyone who stayed home was paid retroactively after peace returned to Washington.
8. I won’t back down: The good news (for you) is that the men and women in uniform would continue to keep you safe. The bad news (for them) is that they’d be paid in IOUs until the shutdown ended. In January, Sens. Mark Udall, D-Colorado, and Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, introduced legislation that would have protected pay for the troops during a shutdown, but it didn’t get anywhere.
Rep. C.W. Young, chairman of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, told the Air Force Times, “All military personnel will continue to serve and accrue pay but will not actually be paid until appropriations are available.”
Their mid-October paycheck would be the first affected. In addition, the congressman told the paper, changes of station would be delayed, medical offerings would be scaled back, facility and weapons maintenance would be suspended and most civilian employees would be furloughed until appropriations are available.
Scenarios of the shutdown
7. If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street: You may be thinking, “No functioning government, no need to pay taxes.” Think again. The Man would continue to collect taxes. U.S. bonds would still be issued. And other essential banking functions would go on.
6. Wait a minute, Mr. Postman: You know that whole “Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night” thing? Apparently, the U.S. Postal Service works through shutdowns as well. Sorry, you won’t catch a break from the junk mail. But hey, you may already be a winner!
5. I want a new drug: Oh, the irony. The Republicans want to defund Obamacare in exchange for funding the government. But the health care act at the center of this storm would continue its implementation process during a shutdown. That’s because its funds aren’t dependent on the congressional budget process.
4. Pass the ammunition: Not so fast. A shutdown would affect the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Translation: That gun permit you wanted processed wouldn’t happen anytime soon.
3. Money (that’s what I want): Well, if you own a small business and needed a loan from the government, you’d have to wait. If you were planning to buy a house and needed a federal loan, you’d have to wait. If you’re a veteran, you might have to make a few trips to the mailbox before that check arrived.
If you’re on Social Security, however, don’t worry — probably. Social Security payments were sent during the last shutdown. President Obama’s expected to keep workers on the payroll to process checks. But would there be enough employees to process new benefits for the newly retired?
2. Anything dirty or dingy or dusty: Oscar the Grouch is a company of one. No one loves trash. But if you live in Washington, expect it to pile up if there’s a shutdown. There wouldn’t be anyone to collect your garbage. Washington’s budget has to be approved by Congress. No budget for the city = no trash collection. And, according to The Washington Post, D.C. produces about 500 tons of garbage each week.
1. I’m proud to be an American: Perhaps the biggest hit would be to the collective psyche. America is the largest economy in the world and a beacon for how democracy ought to work. To watch elected lawmakers engage in a high-stakes staring contest with no one willing to blink is no way to do business. A recent CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll found that 51% will blame Republicans if the government closes its doors. The U.S. has operated without a budget since 2009 and has avoided a government shutdown with last-minute deals. It’s been one stomach-turning sequel after another.
Before you wonder about that Social Security check or selling off your stock portfolio in advance of a possible market crash, consider a couple of political realities in the current debate over spending, Obamacare and the economy.
First, there is a week to go before the deadline for Congress to either authorize more government spending for a new fiscal year that begins October 1 or trigger a partial shutdown of government services.
In Washington, a week is like an NFL triple-header — a seemingly endless stream of mindless commercial breaks with a few bursts of furious action and momentum swings. Anyone who predicts a shutdown with certainty a week ahead of time is messing with your head.
Second, all that political rhetoric and bluster is exactly that — a bunch of words and posturing meant to bolster positions on either side of the debate. At this point, the congressional machinations in coming days are fairly clear, despite what one side or the other tries to portray as the right thing to do.
Third, this is all really about elections, like everything in Washington. In this case, legislators eyeing next year’s congressional elections and the 2016 presidential vote are trying to appeal to their political bases more than actually working for a compromise solution.
So what do we know will happen?
The Democratic-led Senate kicks off the week of legislative brinksmanship by taking up a spending plan passed Friday by the Republican-led House that strips all funding for President Barack Obama’s health care reforms.
A conservative GOP wing bullied Speaker John Boehner of Ohio to include the provision defunding Obamacare in the House spending measure, known in congressional jargon as a continuing resolution.
Those tea party conservatives seek to destroy or at least weaken the health care reforms of the Obamacare law passed in 2010 and held up as constitutional by the Supreme Court in 2012. They face fierce opposition from Obama and Democrats, who want to protect the president’s signature legislative accomplishment so far.
Because Republicans control the House, they were able to pass the spending plan contingent on defunding Obamacare by a 230-189 margin, with all but two “yes” votes from Republicans and all but one “no” vote from Democrats.
In the Senate, however, Democrats and their two independent allies hold 54 of the 100 seats.
Now, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada plans to remove the provision that defunds Obamacare from the House spending plan and send it back to Boehner.
While conservatives led by Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas threaten a filibuster to force a 60-vote majority to proceed, several prominent Republican senators oppose forcing a government shutdown by attaching the Obamacare issue to the spending plan.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said Monday he will vote to overcome a filibuster attempt, guaranteeing such an effort by Cruz would fail as predicted.
Cruz, elected in 2012 with tea party support, has angered Republican veterans since joining the Senate by promoting political crusades for extreme conservative causes that ignore traditions of the chamber and, in some cases, political reality.
Last week, he called on the Senate to follow the House GOP lead in voting to defund Obamacare, even though prominent Republicans criticized him, with Sen. John McCain of Arizona labeling the plan impossible to achieve and therefore irrational.
Even one of Cruz’s libertarian allies, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, concedes that the health care reforms are probably here to stay, though he backs a Senate filibuster to try to delay or undermine them as much as possible.
Meanwhile, other tea party favorites including Sarah Palin support the effort by Cruz to upend Senate normalcy by forcing Democrats and fellow Republicans to repeatedly make highly publicized votes for or against Obamacare.
In an op-ed published Monday on the website RealClearPolitics.com, Cruz called for GOP unity against Obamacare through a successful filibuster of any spending plan that includes funding for the health care reforms.
He laid out a procedural strategy in which Senate Republicans refuse to allow Reid to take up the House measure — a step known as cloture that requires 60 votes — unless the Democratic leader also permits a 60-vote threshold to pass any subsequent amendments such as the certain removal of the provision defunding Obamacare.
Otherwise, amendments pass by a simple 51-vote majority that the Democrats possess.
“Until Reid guarantees a 60-vote threshold on all amendments, a vote for cloture is a vote for Obamacare,” Cruz wrote, calling for a public groundswell to motivate legislators from both parties to back his approach.
He showed the raw politics of his strategy by targeting Democratic senators who face re-election next year in conservative-leaning states.
“If you’re a Mark Pryor, if you’re a Mary Landrieu, running for re-election in Arkansas and Louisiana, and you start to get 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000 calls from your constituents, suddenly, it changes the calculus entirely,” Cruz told “Fox News Sunday.”
However, opposition to Cruz’s approach by senior Senate Republicans including McConnell, McCain, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Bob Corker of Tennessee and others show it lacks the votes for a successful filibuster.
Critics warn that bombastic political rhetoric and promises that can’t be fulfilled can undermine serious efforts to move forward.
“I think one of the things we are struggling with is establishing what’s a realistic expectation for what we can accomplish when we control one out of three parts of the elected government,” GOP Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania told MSNBC on Monday. “When you control only one out of the three, you don’t get to dictate all the terms. But you can have some wins if you’re smart and if you focus on where that opportunity lies.”
Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York said the end result would be worked out amid all the political maneuvering.
“There are obviously going to be negotiations going on while this is happening,” Schumer told MSNBC on Monday. “So everyone’s going to know what’s happening. Everyone’s going to know the inevitable outcome.”
Despite all the procedural hoopla, Reid and Democrats intend to cut out the provision that defunds Obamacare and return the spending plan to the House.
That would put the pressure on Boehner.
He could decide to set aside the measure, essentially declaring a stalemate between the House and Senate that would bring a government shutdown, which he has said he opposes.
Boehner also could bring the revised spending plan up for a vote and possibly allow for new amendments.
This is where things get tricky.
Because the Senate procedural battles are expected to last all week, the House will be under pressure to act quickly to avoid a government shutdown beginning October 1.
Boehner could allow a vote on the “clean” resolution sent back by the Senate, which would likely pass with support from all the House Democrats and a few dozen Republicans to reach the 218 majority threshold.
However, most House Republicans would vote “no” in that scenario, further weakening Boehner’s already shaky leadership of his party’s caucus after a similar result in a past budget battle.
Boehner also could allow GOP amendments to be added, such as a proposal to delay implementation of Obamacare for a year.
The intent would be put the pressure back on the Senate, and particularly Senate Democrats, to reject the revised House proposal and therefore risk getting blamed for a government shutdown.
That might not happen until after October 1 with a shutdown already begun, leaving Republicans vulnerable to the public perception they were responsible.
Recent polling shows growing public opposition to Obamacare, but much greater dislike for a government shutdown, particularly among independent voters considered crucial to presidential hopefuls. In addition, more respondents indicated they would blame Republicans for a shutdown.
The deadline to increase the federal debt ceiling — how much money the government can borrow to pay its bills — is coming up in mid-October, presenting another opportunity for Cruz and other Republicans to go after Obamacare.
House Republican leader Eric Cantor of Virginia already has said the House will consider a debt ceiling measure this week with a wish list of GOP priorities attached, including delaying Obamacare for a year and launching construction of the Keystone oil pipeline from Canada.
(CNN Contributed to this report)