As the two houses of Congress try to pass a budget before the beginning of the fiscal year Tuesday, October 1, the battle over funding the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, has brought the government to the brink of shutdown. Since 1977, there have been 17 government shutdowns, however many only last a few days at most with a few notable exceptions in 1995. As the deadline comes ever-closer, many Americans are asking how a government shutdown could affect them.
Firstly, Congress would stay open and, hopefully, work on passing a budget to get things going again. Although, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard D-HI and a veteran has introduced legislation to protect military pay during a shutdown (they would still get paid, but processing times would increase) and has offered to return her own salary during the shutdown or donate it to charity. Also, new VA claims will be added to the hundreds of thousands of backlogged claims, which only recently have shown signs of diminishing.
National parks and the Smithsonian would all close. NASA personnel would be furloughed, with the exception of necessary personnel servicing the Americans currently aboard the International Space Station. New federally-funded national research would be stalled, with the National Institute of Health unable to take on new trials or patients.
While the military personnel will remain on duty, it is expected that at least half of the 800,000 civilian employees in the Pentagon would be furloughed. Social Security benefits will continue, however payments will be delayed due to lack of processing personnel. The Postal Service will be unaffected because it has outside funding.
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A shutdown now would be worse than the 1995 shutdown, because the then-Congress had passed some appropriations already and far more government services are now automated. Unfortunately, avoiding a shutdown now seems very unlikely.