Congress is locked in a debate over how much money it should spend on the government budget, and unless members reach an agreement before money runs out in a few days, many government services will be shut down.
Those services include the Smithsonian museums, government offices, the IRS, national parks, and other positions funded by the federal government. A shutdown could especially affect the tourist season in the nation's capital, a time when millions of visitors descend on government-funded museums and parks.
Outside of Washington, D.C., national parks would be closed, travelers' visa applications will not be processed, and tax refunds from the IRS could be delayed.
After a government shutdown occurred in 1995, many voters blamed the Republican Party for refusing to compromise, leading to big victories for Democrats in the next election. Currently, polls show that voters blame both parties equally for the impasse in Congress.
Lawmakers and their staffs have been working around the clock to try to reach a compromise and avoid a shutdown. But many Republican lawmakers feel the Tea Party members who voted for them expect deep cuts in government spending and efforts to bring down the government's debt. Democrats think such drastic spending cuts would negatively influence the economy and the neediest Americans.
Note: The first 4 minutes and 15 seconds of this video give an overview of the factors behind a possible government shutdown. The rest is a discussion with a Wall Street Journal reporter on the topic.
"Our goal is real clear: We're going to fight for the largest spending cuts we can get and the policy riders that were attached to them, because we believe that cutting spending will lead to a better environment for job creation." - Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio)
"After weeks of negotiations, we've now agreed to cut as much spending as the Republicans in Congress originally asked for. So we've agreed to a compromise, but somehow we still don't have a deal, because some folks are trying to inject politics in what should be a simple debate about how to pay our bills." - President Barack Obama
1. What is the federal government?
2. What kinds of things does the federal government spend money on?
3. What is a budget?
1. Based on what you saw in the video, how would a government shutdown affect you and/or people you know?
2. Why would it be politically dangerous for one party to be blamed for a government shutdown?
3. Based on what you saw in the video, outline the Democrats' and the Republicans' positions on government spending in general. Which do you most agree with? Why?