On October 1st gridlock in the U.S. government shutdown portions of their operations, furloughing hundreds of thousands of federal workers around the world. Before this happened though the House of Representatives and the Senate played ‘ping-pong‘ with a number of different bills. The main point of these exchanges was to extend government operations via a ‘continuing resolution’ (CR), and some offered to extend government operations for longer periods than another. The biggest point of contention for the GOP is that some members would like to eliminate all or some aspects of the Affordable Care Act (i.e., Obamacare), which not coincidentally began operating on October 1st–the first day of the 2014 fiscal year. Each time the Republican controlled House sent a bill to the Democratically controlled Senate, the ACA riders were stripped and a “clean” CR was sent back to the House.
All revenue related measures must begin in the House of Representatives, so the fact that the Senate cannot come up with their own new spending bill is somewhat problematic. The Senate is able to amend bills and send them back to the house where they can be voted on or ignored.
To briefly summarize what has happened, the House first passed HR-59, a proposed CR through 12/15 (10 weeks), in exchange for a ending funding for the Affordable Care Act. The Senate changed this to a six week CR and removed the language ending the ACA. This bill that was returned to the House could still be approved by them, and is what people are terming a “Clean CR” since it only continues government operations for six weeks, but does nothing more. The house amended that returned bill to end the medical device tax–which is intended to help fund the ACA–and extended the bill to cover a ten week period, but also delayed all portions of the ACA by a year, and included the “Vitter Amendment” which ends a government subsidy to congressional staffers to pay for their health coverage on the new ACA exchanges. That language was essentially stripped again, and sent back to the House as a “Clean CR.”
So at this point, the House can attempt to come up with a new CR that the Senate may or may not approve, or they can vote on the clean CR. Neither of these possibilities seems to be forthcoming. Moderate Republicans have pushed to vote on the clean CR, but the Republican “Hastert Rule” has prevented Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) from putting this measure up for a vote. Since a majority of Republicans must approve any (or most) bills coming out of the House, the contentious “Tea Party Caucus” has been able to keep this clean CR from coming to the floor even though it might have wide support of the House and Senate. President Obama will speak on the budget/debt impasse at 4pm, 10/2 on CNBC.
Another problem is that by October 17th, the Treasury department is expected to hit the debt ceiling, meaning they could no longer pay the country’s bills. There are a number of ways out of this, including Congress raising the ceiling, Obama ignoring the ceiling and ordering the Treasury to pay, or defaulting on the nation’s debt. None of these is particularly appealing, but raising the ceiling comes with the fewest consequences. Around this time each of the past few years, a big deal was made about the nation’s large deficits and rapidly rising debt. However, due to the economic turnaround deficits have shrunk and the debt is not rising as rapidly. This might be the reason that the new debate is not so much about deficits, but other mandatory spending programs like the ACA.
Questions you might answer
I would like you to think about the government’s role in the economy when it comes the responsibilities of Congress to pass a budget. DO NOT try to answer all of these questions, just focus on one topic. Also, try to think about your comment from different angles. To write a brief comment, read the previous comments, compose your thought in a Word document, and paste it in the comment box below. The more original and factually supported your comment, the better your grade will be. Avoid anecdotal evidence including personal accounts, and avoid using subjective terms like “I think” or “I believe.” Remain as objective as possible, and avoid emotional stories often used in place of the general truth. Finally, your comment will appear ONLY AFTER IT IS APPROVED. Please don’t email me asking where it is, it often takes a while for me to get to it. I will ignore these emails.
NOTE: Read other students comments before posting, and please leave your name with your posting.
- What would you recommend the House or Senate do? Provide evidence as to why. What are the problems of a government shutdown? What happened in the past? If you think that the House should pass a clean “6-week” or “10-week” CR, try to provide supporting evidence as to why they might want to do that. Who stands to benefit from the passage of a clean CR? Who stands to be hurt by a continued shutdown?
- What would be the consequence of delaying the “individual mandate” portion of the ACA? Think carefully about how insurance works, and why this might be a good or bad idea. Why is the individual mandate there in the first place?
- What would be the consequence of not raising the debt ceiling and/or not passing a budget before the debt ceiling is reached?
- What is the consequence of not doing anything about our deficit? How should the deficit be solved? Should we raise taxes or cut spending? Think of this in the context of current House rules which restrict changes in policy to those which to not raise revenues.
Do not necessarily limit yourself to these topics, and not necessarily these articles. You should read all or most of them and formulate a fact-based opinion that you can use to argue your point. I am not grading you on the correctness of your opinion, only whether or not it is convincing based on the facts you display. (Note: pointing out that pundits like Paul Krugman or Charles Krauthammer agree with you is not a fact.)