As of Oct 01, the funding for our government effectively ended. What this means is that government workers had to stop working, because legally they couldn't be paid. Well - not all
workers had to stop working exactly... The phrase used was "non-essential" government workers. That is really a bad way to word it, but that's the common wording
Does a shutdown mean everyone who works for the federal government has to go home?
Not exactly. The laws and regulations governing shutdowns separate federal workers into "essential" and "non-essential." (Actually, the preferred term nowadays is "excepted" and "non-excepted." This was tweaked in 1995 because "non-essential" seemed a bit hurtful. But we'll keep things simple.)
If you recall, it was 1995 when we had our last shutdown. That was because Newt Gingrich had his
feelings hurt. He felt disrespected. As it happens, that seems to be the same reason this time
"We're not going to be disrespected," conservative Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind., [told the Washington Examiner]. "We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is."
Regardless of the reason, and regardless of the "preferred" term, the pols and pundits still refer to those furloughed as "non-essential" workers. Unfortunately, this plays into the hands of the drown-the-government-in-the-bathtub crowd, who immediately wonder loudly why these people are even employed if they aren't essential to government (followed by a smirk). The definitions as to what is meant by "essential" are at the first link above. It's really a bare bones arrangement.
That's why they pay a single guard for say the Lincoln Memorial, rather than several wandering around, janitorial staff to pick up trash, rangers to answer questions, etc. People complain that their vacations are impacted; meanwhile, people who have done nothing to deserve it are seeing their paychecks stop. I have friends and neighbors who are affected. They are not nameless, faceless bureaucrats living fat on the taxpayer's dollar. They are real people going to work and doing what they can to make America a better place in which to live.
Referring to them as "non-essential" while cutting off their pay is a double-whammy. Is the lab scientist who tests the water for poisons and pollutants non-essential? Is the office manager who maintains the records non-essential? Is the lawyer who protects the small business guy from a deep-pocketed Big Business non-essential? It depends on what you expect from your government, I suppose. I expect that these are all people I want on my side, making America the great to live in that it is. To me, they are ALL essential.
Republicans are pretending to agree. In reality, they only care in that it causes them some pain because their constituents are complaining. Since the Senate has been very clear that a budget bill that doesn't fully fund the government (including Obamacare) is a no-go, the Republicans are trying to do it piecemeal
, funding the parks and military to pacify the voters. That is not going to fly in the Senate, as well it shouldn't. Daryll Issa is trying to get a shutdown exception
for his pet lawsuit, and is not getting that either.
It's like a union strike. It only works if the pain is great enough. That is why it's a little disheartening that over 300,000 civilian defense workers are being called back to work
. It's mixed emotions for sure - I am glad that those workers will be able to work and get paid. But that will also likely make it harder to press the Speaker of the House to put a clean bill up for a vote. It also reinforces in the minds of those who remain furloughed that they are still considered "non-essential".
Boehner has stated that there will be no clean bill
unless President Obama negotiates with him. I find this a bit odd because the Senate Democrats will need to approve anything before the President can sign it. Boehner is also apparently reneging
on a previous statement that he would not allow a default regarding the impending debt limit increase. Were that to happen, either we would crater the world economy, or President Obama would have to issue an executive order to increase it anyway, paving the way for impeachment proceedings. Which may be what the Republicans are secretly hoping for.
Perhaps that will require a new definition to "non-essential".