Breaking Down the Shutdown

by Trey Vernaci

The 2013 U.S. government shutdown has been a prominent topic in the news both domestically and globally. On campus, we have heard about it in class, read about it in various newspapers, and discussed it with our peers and other individuals on campus. While this topic has been present in many mediums, most students on campus do not know many details about the shutdown; it has been either been presented in a biased manner, or the publications are too lengthy for a busy Millsaps students to find time to read. The government shutdown affects many of those close to us and will have lasting effects on the American society, so let’s dig a little deeper.

On Sept. 20, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an appropriations bill to fund the federal government Dec. 15 (a duty of Congress prescribed in the Constitution). This bill that the House passed, included an amendment that would defund the Affordable Care Act aka Obamacare. Seven days later, the Senate amended the resolution by removing the amendment made by the House. On Sept. 29, the House once again revised the resolution by adding another amendment to defund the Affordable Care Act. The next day, the Senate amended the resolution again to remove the defunding of the Affordable Care Act. The House Speaker John Boehmer refused to bring the amended bill to a vote. Because of this “funding gap,” on Oct. 1, the U.S. government entered a partial shutdown.

As a result of the shutdown, 800,000 federal employees were furloughed. In addition, all federal institutions considered “non-essential,” including national museums and parks, were closed until the shutdown resolved. According to, “Federal loans for rural communities, small business owners, and families buying a home [were frozen].” Social Security payments continued, as they are deemed necessary by the federal government. In addition, traveling abroad remained active, as TSA is also an essential employment. Medicare funding continued due to its essential nature. Over half of civilian defense employees were furloughed, but active duty troops continued employment, while death and burial benefits were denied. Since the U.S. Postal Service is independent from the federal government, it stayed in operation.

The government shutdown was an approach of the debt ceiling— debt was rising while the government was unable to supply funding. Most political analysts were concerned that the prolonged shutdown would require a raise in the debt ceiling. To raise the debt ceiling, Congress and the President must agree on legislation to either suspend or raise the debt limit so the government does not default on the public debt.

After much partisan negotiation and arguing, on Oct. 16, the government passed a proposal to fund itself through Jan. 15. The proposal intends to cut down sequestration-level spending. Furthermore, Congress also passed a bill to suspend the debt limit until Feb. 7, 2014. On Oct. 17, the U.S. Government ended its shutdown period, which totaled to 16 days, the third-longest government shutdown in U.S. history.