ST. ALBANS — The federal government shut down this morning after the U.S. Senate rejected a budget bill approved by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives that would have delayed the Affordable Care Act requirement that individuals purchase health insurance.
Speaker of the House John Boehner declined to bring to a vote a bill allowing the government to continue operating while a new budget was passed.
“People may disagree about the Affordable Care Act, but it is wrong for right-wing Republicans to ignore the results of the last election and hold the American people hostage by threatening to shut down the government unless they get their way,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., made a similar statement as the crisis unfolded yesterday. “Our constituents elect us to lead, not to play bumper sticker politics. It erodes Americans’ confidence in their elected officials when we continue to bring the government to the brink in every debate,” said Leahy.
“My door is always open to any member of Congress, Republican or Democrat, who wants to reach a compromise,” he said. Leahy is a ranking member on the Senate Appropriations Committee. “But the ‘my way or the highway’ approach of a small minority once again is bringing the government to the brink. Congress has a real opportunity to reject the slogans, the politicking, and the influence of pressure groups, and show real leadership.”
Personnel deemed “essential” will continue to work, but may have to do so without pay. Members of Congress will continue to receive paychecks.
Numerous government agencies are being shuttered including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. National parks and museums, including the Smithsonian and the Missisquoi Wildlife Refuge, are closed.
Others will function with limited staff.
The government will continue to pay Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits, but new applications for Social Security benefits and applications for Social Security cards will be delayed.
One of Franklin County’s largest employers, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is unlikely to see a signficant impact, because its budget is primarily made up of fees paid by those seeking U.S. visas.
However, the U.S. Passport Agency in St. Albans is in danger of closing, according to Sanders.
Other local agencies, including Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which processes travelers and goods coming into the U.S., is likely to see about 12 percent of its workers furloughed, according to the Washington Post.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency would likely see furloughs for 22 percent of its employees.
Delays are also likely for those seeking Federal Housing Authority mortgages, students receiving Perkins loans and on federal work-study programs, small businesses seeking loans or assistance from the Small Business Administration, veterans applying for new benefits, and passport applicants.
Head Start, a preschool program for poor children, may also be forced to close, cutting off services for nearly one million children.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), more commonly known as food stamps, will continue to provide services for at least a month, but the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program which provides nutrition assistance to pregnant women, infants and toddlers, will cease to operate.
Numerous economists have expressed concern about the impact a federal shutdown could have on a fragile economy.
Goldman Sachs has estimated that if the shutdown lasts for three weeks, the Gross Domestic Product – the total output of the U.S. economy — will shrink by nearly one percent this quarter.