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September 30, 2013

Government Shuts Down, Affecting Millions


The federal government has officially shut down for the first time in 17 years, meaning 800,000 “non-essential” federal employees have been sent home without pay.

The shutdown comes after a night of drama played out in Congress as Republicans in the House of Representatives and Democrats in the Senate tried to blame the impending shutdown on the other party.

“The House has done its work,” said House majority leader Republican John Boehner of Ohio. “The Senate decided not to work yesterday. Well, my goodness. If there is such an emergency, where are they?”

“Our negotiation is over with, and I have said that for two weeks,” said Senate majority leader Democrat Harry Reid of Nevada. “They are closing down the government. I don’t know what in the world is wrong with them, why they’re fixated on this Obamacare.”

Government activities that are deemed “essential” will continue, including military, law enforcement, intelligence activities, Border Patrol, air traffic control and any job that protects federal life and property, like zookeepers at the National Zoo.

The issue preventing Congress from passing a budget is a disagreement over funding for the Affordable Care Act, sometimes called “Obamacare”. Democrats in the Senate and the president say they will reject any budget that takes money away from the ACA, as the House Republican budget does. The ACA goes into effect today, October 1, regardless of whether Congress passes a budget, since the money has already been allocated.

Warm up questions
  1. What is a government shutdown? For an excellent kid-targeted video resource on the government shutdown from Time Magazine click here.
  2. Who is affected when the government shuts down?
  3. How serious is it when the government shuts down?
  4. Why does the government shut down?
  5. How can it be fixed?
Discussion questions
  1. Who is to blame for the shutdown? Is it more than one person? Did several groups of people contribute to the shutdown?
  2. Why is the government shutting down now?
  3. Is it fair that some government employees will not be paid for their work? How is it determined who is “essential” and who is not?
  4. What is the Affordable Care Act and what role has it played in the government shutdown?
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