The Change In Government Shutdowns

Government shutdowns have happened before. NPR posted an article today detailing some of the history of government shutdowns.

The article reports:

Drawn-out fights over spending bills are nothing new for Congress. But that’s where the fights used to stay: in Congress. The rest of the country didn’t have to pay much attention to countdown clocks and all this drama.

“In the ’60s and ’70s down until 1980, it was not taken that seriously at all,” says Charles Tiefer, a former legal adviser to the House of Representatives, who now teaches at the University of Baltimore Law School. In the old days, he says, when lawmakers reached a budget stalemate, the federal workforce just went about its business.

“It was thought that Congress would soon get around to passing the spending bill and there was no point in raising a ruckus while waiting,” he says.

That easygoing attitude changed during the last year of President Jimmy Carter‘s administration. That’s when Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti issued a legal opinion saying government work cannot go on until Congress agrees to pay for it.

Benjamin Civiletti was sworn in as the U.S. attorney general on Aug. 16, 1979. In 1980 he issued a legal opinion saying that federal work cannot go on until Congress agrees to pay for it. That changed the way Congress and the country behaved when Congress took some extra time to agree on the budget.

The article reminds us:

A handicap for lawmakers is that the White House makes the call of which employees are deemed essential and keep showing up for work. So even though Obamacare has been the main bone of contention in this year’s fight, President Obama insists the new health insurance exchanges will open on schedule Tuesday, even if much of the rest of the government shuts down.

Conventional wisdom is that a government shutdown will seriously hurt the Republicans in the 2014 mid-term elections. I understand the basis for that idea, but I am not so sure it is valid–particularly if ObamaCare is funded and the rest of the government is not. ObamaCare is not a popular program, and if the debate revolves around ObamaCare, the Republicans win. If the debate revolves around the shutdown, Democrats win. There is also the matter of the fact that the President has stated that he will not negotiate. That really does not look good either.

It is going to be an interesting week.

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