Trending News Monday: Tick-Tocks Taunt Capitol Hill

The House of Representatives and the Senate have not yet, and will mostly likely not, come to an agreement on the 2014 federal budget before the end of the fiscal year at midnight tonight. As such, Americans expect to see the first federal government shutdown in 17 years. This Trending News Monday, we’re highlighting the concerns and interests surrounding Capitol Hill and the predicted shutdown.

The debate between the legislative bodies centers around President Obama’s 2010 Affordable Care Act (commonly referred to as Obamacare). After the Supreme Court upheld the ACA last year, the government has been preparing for the implementation of the affordable health care exchanges. Coverage begins January 1, 2014, and the federal government will issue penalties to uninsured Americans. In an effort to meet the January 1 deadline, exchanges will officially open as scheduled tomorrow (Tuesday, October 1), and America’s 40 million uninsured may begin signing up for affordable health care coverage.

Despite the Supreme Court upholding the ACA, Obamacare still divides American’s and their elected representatives. The ACA stands as the delaying factor in the stopgap spending bill, which extends government spending for six weeks. Yesterday, the House passed budget measures to the bill with two amendments: delay the ACA and repeal the 2.3% medical device tax. Although the Senate did not meet yesterday, they voted today (54-46) and sent the budget (stripped of the amendments) back to the House.

Both President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) stated that the only chance for the government to avoid a shutdown is if the House approves the Senate-passed stopgap spending bill (which would extend government spending through November 15) with no provisions to the ACA.

According to USA Today, the House will send a budget back to congress tonight with an amendment that delays the health care requirement by one year and makes members of Congress and their staffs buy unsubsidized health care from the exchange. If legislators cannot come to an agreement before midnight, the government shutdown will begin.

Anticipating a shutdown, last week the House unanimously passed a measure to keep paying U.S. soldiers if the government shutdowns. While soldiers as well as privately funded (U.S. Post Office), automatically funded (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid) and essential federal agencies and employees will continue operating through the shutdown, employees  of federal agencies, such as the  Pentagon and National Parks Service, are set to furlough during the shutdown.

A short-term shutdown will unlikely effect the economy, but leaders on both sides of the argument have expressed concerns over a long-term shutdown. While US citizens worry and speculate how the shutdown and furloughs and increased borrowing might affect the economy, they’re also setting their concerns on the ACA itself– worrying if the exchange will indeed open tomorrow and if the ACA will remain the law of the land.

Despite efforts in the House of Representatives to defund the ACA, President Obama said that tomorrow’s health insurance exchange opening is a “done deal,” reports Reuters. The exchange will open as scheduled, and uninsured Americans can purchase health care through an open marketplace exchange until March 31, 2014.

Keep an eye out for news on the federal shutdown and the ACA as the stories continue to develop.

Cover Photo Source: Christopher via Flickr

Cassandra is a Content Manager and Developer at SJG. She earned her BA from Fontbonne University in 2011. Outside the office, she enjoys an active, healthy and well-rounded lifestyle including reading, writing, running, golfing, watching films, listening to music, taking photographs, and consuming media and social media.