The US Government today shutdown — for the first time in nearly 17 years — as the Republicans and the Democrats failed to strike a deal on spending and budget mainly due to their differences over ‘Obamacare’, the flagship healthcare programme of President Barack Obama.

With neither side blinking, despite last minute hectic efforts from both side, the White House immediately ordered the Federal Government agencies to begin shutting down, furloughing thousands of workers and curtailing some services for the first time since 1995-96.

“Congress has not fulfilled its responsibility. It has failed to pass a budget and, as a result, much of our Government must now shut down until Congress funds it again,” Obama said in a video message to the armed services shortly after the shutdown came into effect.

Threat to national security

“The threats to our national security have not changed, and we need you to be ready for any contingency. Ongoing military operations — like our efforts in Afghanistan — will continue. If you’re serving in harm’s way, we’re going to make sure you have what you need to succeed in your missions,” he said.

“Congress has passed, and I am signing into law, legislation to make sure you get your paychecks on time. And we’ll continue working to address any impact this shutdown has on you and your families,” Obama said.

Orderly shutdown

Agencies should now execute plans for an orderly shutdown due to the absence of appropriations, the Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell said in her guidance to the agencies directing them to execute their plans for an orderly shutdown of the Federal Government.

“We urge Congress to act quickly to pass a Continuing Resolution to provide a short-term bridge that ensures sufficient time to pass a budget for the remainder of the fiscal year, and to restore the operation of critical public services and programmes that will be impacted by a lapse in appropriations,” the guidance said.

Impact of shutdown

Shutdown means that national parks will close, most routine food inspections will be suspended, paperwork will slow at government offices and many federal employees will be furloughed.

Only emergency and essential items would be able to operate, as a result of which lakhs of government employees would not receive their salary for the shutdown duration.

Earlier, Obama said, “A shutdown will have a very real economic impact on real people, right away. Past shutdowns have disrupted the economy significantly. This one would, too.

It would throw a wrench into the gears of our economy at a time when those gears have gained some traction.”

(This article was published on October 1, 2013)
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