CP Politics

Tuesday, Jul 22, 2014

Debt Ceiling, 'Obamacare,' Government Shutdowns: Brace for a Raucous October

  • (Chart: White House Office of Management and Budget)
    Chart showing growth of federal debt and debt ceiling.
September 27, 2013|7:09 am

With three major government events all occurring in October, the month ahead will prove to be full of political drama. Here are the three main things to keep an eye on:

1. Funding the Government

Without congressional authorization, there will be no funding for the government beginning Tuesday, Oct. 1. If no agreement is reached, all "essential" personnel will continue in their position while "non-essential" government employees will be on unpaid leave until Congress authorizes more spending.

The Republican-led House passed a continuing resolution last week to temporarily fund the government, but that bill contains provisions that would defund the Affordable Care Act, also known as "Obamacare." The Democratic-led Senate will likely strip those provisions on Saturday. This means that the House must either pass the Senate's amended bill, or amend the Senate's amended bill, which would put it back in the hands of the Senate. And, all this must happen before midnight on Monday to prevent a government shutdown.

2. "Obamacare"

At the time of this publication, a temporary government shutdown on Tuesday appears highly likely. Tuesday also happens to be the day that the main parts of the ACA are scheduled to go into effect. And that implementation has, thus far, not been smooth.

The ACA is a large, expansive law that has proven technically difficult to implement. The Obama administration has already delayed or abandoned parts of the law by executive order because those parts were determined to be unfeasible or too burdensome to implement. Even Democrats who support the law, and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who is in charge of implementing the law, have used these words to describe the ACA: complex, complicated, confusing, beyond comprehension, train wreck.

3. Debt Ceiling

On top of all that, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced Wednesday that Congress must increase the nation's debt limit by Oct. 17 or the U.S. Treasury will begin defaulting on promised payments.

This does not mean that the U.S. government will default on its debts. Money will still be flowing into the Treasury, and debts will most certainly be paid first. But other payments that are owed, such as to vendors who provide services to the U.S. government, may not get paid.

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