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A Highschooler's Guide: What Is A Government Shutdown?

Please note that this article is intended to provide factual coverage of events and is NOT intended to express political opinion. Any and all opinions that may be implied do not represent the official stances of the Poudre Press, Poudre School District, or Poudre High School.



U.S. Capitol Building, Washington D.C.

In September, the United States avoided a government shutdown, now it’s poised to shut down on November 17th unless Congress can pass the necessary appropriations. But what does any of this mean?


Federal agencies cannot perform their duties without the necessary money or approval from Congress, this comes from appropriation bills. This means when the government is shut down many agencies will simply not have most of their employees show up to work as there is no way to fund anything. This includes things such as NASA, The CDC, and even Federal Courts would depending on the length of a shutdown have to scale back or close their operations. Social Security benefits would continue to be issued, along with Medicare and Medicaid funding as these are programs that do not require the annual approval of Congress, however additional services offered by these programs may have their operations scaled back. Essential Government services such as the military and the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) would still run, however, all employees would not be paid during the tenure of the shutdown, however, they would be reimbursed after the shutdown ends. Shutdowns in the long run will hurt the American economy, with Goldman Sachs an investment banking company estimating that for every week the American economy is shut down the U.S. GDP will decrease by 0.2%. A government shutdown hurts millions of Americans through a loss of work, wages, and a worse economy, it's something that Congress has always tried to avoid.


The U.S. came close to a government shutdown on October 1st, 2023, however in the last few hours of September 30th the United States Senate passed an appropriations bill, and President Biden signed it into law. However that bill was only a temporary measure, it kept the government open for 45 days (up until November 17th). With that deadline looming Congress has a very limited time frame to avoid a government shutdown. Why given the 45-day time limit has Congress procrastinated until the last minute? Congress not only has a lot of other business to attend to during its sessions but something quite unusual struck the U.S. House during October.


Kevin McCarthy was the United States House Speaker, up until October 3rd when the House of Representatives voted to oust him. 8 Republicans did not agree with McCarthy's plan to avoid a government shutdown and voted along with Democrats to vacate the Speakership. After McCarthy was deposed as Speaker the House was forced to elect a new Speaker before it could attend to any other business, including anything related to the impending government shutdown. McCarthy declined to run for the Speakership again leaving the job open to other Republicans (Democrats could only win the Speakership with Republican support as they have a majority in the chamber). Republicans went through 3 candidates for Speaker before on October 25th their fourth candidate for Speaker, Mike Johnson of Louisiana won the Speaker election. This left the House virtually paralyzed for nearly a month, making the 45-day deadline seem a lot shorter.


Now a deeply divided Congress, a Democrat-controlled Senate, and a Republican-controlled House have a week to pass legislation that they can both agree to. Speaker Johnson must pass a bill that his Party can accept, but also a bill that Senate Democrats will support. Additional complications include foreign aid. President Biden in an Oval Office Address on October 20th requested an over $100 billion package for Ukraine, Taiwan, and Israel. Senate Republicans have expressed support for these packages as long as they include additional funding for border security at the U.S.-Mexico border. The House of Representatives passed a bill providing $14 billion in aid strictly for Israel, in exchange for cutting $14 billion from the IRS. The Senate Majority Leader, Chuck Schumer said the Senate will not vote on the legislation, and even if it passed President Biden has vowed to Veto the bill, as it appears to be a rebuke to Biden's Inflation Reduction Act which provided the IRS with a significantly larger budget.


Eyes will be on Washington this week to see what, if anything can pass, and if we will be faced with a government shutdown.



Please note that this article is intended to provide factual coverage of events and is NOT intended to express political opinion. Any and all opinions that may be implied do not represent the official stances of the Poudre Press, Poudre School District, or Poudre High School.



Brody is a senior at Poudre High School working at the Poudre Press for the first time. Some of Brody's interests include government, history, and world events. He runs a column called 2024 Today which delves into relevant news around the upcoming 2024 election. You can find his blog here.



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