The Government Shutdown

With Congress having failed to pass a federal budget on Monday, some government services have stopped

Oct 01, 2013 | By Katy Steinmetz for TIME and Kelli Plasket for TFK; with AP reporting
PAUL J. RICHARDS—AFP/GETTY IMAGES

U.S. Park Service workers close the entrance to the Lincoln Monument, in Washington, D.C., on October 1. The monument is one of many federal government-run visitor areas now closed due to the government shutdown.

For the first time in 17 years, the U.S. government has shut down, following the failure on Monday of Congress to pass a federal funding bill. While essential services will continue, the shutdown will keep hundreds of thousands of federal workers off the job.

The federal government sets a budget that pays for agencies and services. Without a plan for how to spend money, the government has to shut down. But for a budget to pass, it has to be approved by the Senate and the House of Representatives. The deadline to pass a new budget was Monday night because the new budget year began on October 1.

Over the weekend, Congress worked on passing the budget. A federal funding bill went back and forth between the House and the Senate. A major sticking point was whether the government would pay for changes in health care. The Senate, which has a Democratic majority, wanted to pass a budget that would fund the new health care law created by President Barack Obama. But many members of the House, which has a Republican majority, did not want government money used that way.

Early Sunday, the House sent a bill to the Senate that would delay for one year the health insurance law, which says all Americans must buy health insurance or else pay a penalty. The House’s bill would have also repealed a new tax on medical devices meant to help fund the new law. The Senate met on Monday and rejected the bill, and sent it back to the House, which then offered a revised measure. That was rejected, as well. So what exactly will happen now that the government has been shut down? Watch this video and keep reading to find out.

Effects of the Shutdown

Although the government has shut down, its services that are most important in the short-term are still getting done. Soldiers and other members of the military who help protect America are still keeping us safe. The Post Office is still delivering letters. Air traffic controllers are still helping planes land safely at airports.

But many services have stopped. Sites that belong to the federal government, such as national parks and museums, are now closed. Government-funded medical research has been delayed. Additionally, the government is not issuing as many visas—documents that allow foreign people to visit our country—and passports, which enable Americans to visit other nations.

Many government workers, such as public school teachers, firefighters, and police officers, are paid by local governments or state governments. Even though the federal government has been shut down, their jobs should not be affected. Kids are still going to school, unless they’re part of a program like Head Start, which depends on grant money from Washington. Police officers are still protecting towns and firefighters are still putting out fires.

Essential federal workers, like the President and members of Congress, are still on the job. But many federal government employees—about 800,000 in all—will stay home, without pay, until a deal is reached.

The federal government has shut down many times before. In 1995, it was closed for 21 days. Lawmakers are expected to eventually come to a compromise that that will get the government running again.

This story was originally published on September 30, 2013. It was updated October 1, 2013.