The federal government shut down Thursday morning after the U.S. Senate rejected a budget bill approved by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives that would have delayed the Affordable Care Act requirement that individuals purchase health insurance.
Speaker of the House John Boehner declined to allow a vote to let the government continue operating while a new budget was passed, drawing ire from Vermont’s Congressional delegation.
“People may disagree about the Affordable Care Act, but it is wrong for right-wing Republicans to ignore the results of the last election and hold the American people hostage by threatening to shut down the government unless they get their way,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., made a similar statement as the crisis unfolded Monday: “Our constituents elect us to lead, not to play bumper sticker politics,” he said. “It erodes Americans’ confidence in their elected officials when we continue to bring the government to the brink in every debate.
“My door is always open to any member of Congress, Republican or Democrat, who wants to reach a compromise,” continued Leahy, a ranking member on the Senate Appropriations Committee. “Congress has a real opportunity to reject the slogans, the politicking and the influence of pressure groups and show real leadership.”
“Essential” personnel will continue to work, but may do so without pay. Members of Congress will continue to receive paychecks.
The Vermont National Guard will furlough 450 federal technicians but will remain vigilant in case of an emergency, Maj. Gen. Steven Cray said in a news release Tuesday afternoon.
One of Franklin County’s largest employers, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, is unlikely to see a significant impact, because its budget is primarily made up of fees paid by those seeking U.S. visas.
However, the U.S. Passport Agency in St. Albans is in danger of closing, according to Sanders.
Other local agencies, including Customs and Border Protection, which processes travelers and goods coming into the U.S., is likely to see about 12 percent of its workers furloughed, the Washington Post reported.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency would likely see furloughs for 22 percent of its employees.
Numerous federal agencies are shuttered, including the Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. National parks and museums, from the Smithsonian to the Missisquoi Wildlife Refuge in Swanton, are closed.
Others will function with limited staff.
The government will continue to pay Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits, but new applications for Social Security benefits and cards will be delayed.
Delays are also likely for those seeking Federal Housing Authority mortgages, students receiving Perkins loans and on federal work-study programs, small businesses seeking loans or assistance from the Small Business Administration, veterans applying for new benefits and passport applicants.
Head Start, a preschool program for poor children, may also be forced to close, cutting off services for nearly 1 million children.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program will continue to provide food stamps for at least a month, but the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program, which provides nutrition assistance to pregnant women, infants and toddlers, will cease to operate.
Numerous economists have expressed concern about the impact a federal shutdown could have on a fragile economy.
Goldman Sachs estimates if the shutdown lasts for three weeks, the gross domestic product – the total output of the U.S. economy – will shrink by nearly 1 percent this quarter.