It’s the Final Countdown

Our federal government has less than a week left to get its shit together. Come October 1, we will all be waiting to hear about the shutdown. It’s like waiting for Doomsday all over again…sort of. As of right now, our federal government is divided between the Democratic-controlled Senate and the Republican-controlled House. And essentially, the situation is this: the Republicans in the House want the Affordable Care Act to be defunded, and if the situation isn’t resolved by next week, then shutdown here we come.

Overall, Congress needs to find a resolution that will fund government programs by September 30, or else members lose their authority to spend money. Now obviously not every single one of our government programs will cease – we do have a thing called mandatory spending, and programs like Medicare and Social Security fall into that category. But a shutdown means that thousands of federal workers will end up being furloughed. But members of Congress – those “responsible” for the potential shutdown, will get paid because they are classified as essential personnel. Thanks for taking one for the team there, guys.

But the most frustrating thing about this is that I’ve heard one thing over and over again: this is all Obama’s fault. Yeah, not so much. Although Republicans say they are definitely not taking the blame if Congress does shut down. And in the midst of avoiding the blame, House Speaker John Boehner had proposed a bill in attempts to end this shutdown, but then the conservatives responded with that whole “let’s defund Obamacare” proposition. And the worst part is that members of the GOP aren’t wanting to avoid a shutdown because of the many that will be negatively impacted by such an event, but because they worry that the placed blame will cause them to lose voters right before a congressional election year. I mean, who says our government isn’t self-involved? A democracy is for the people, right?

And speaking of self-involved, did I mention Ted Cruz? The Senator attempted a “filibuster” for 21 hours on September 24 all because he’s very anti-Obamacare – even though the health exchanges under the Affordable Health Care Act are already set to roll out on October 1 (and would remain unaffected in lieu of any government shutdown as the Act’s funding does not come from annual appropriations). So essentially, Ted, you just wanted to hear yourself speak…for 21 hours – and please refrain from saying you are speaking for “300 million Americans” ever again. Because newsflash, you weren’t. He rambled on about Toby Keith, Darth Vader, and even read some Dr. Seuss. Was that a shout out to my blog, Senator? No – well then, I guess maybe I’m as narcissistic as you. Although that’s a big ass maybe. And even after his fake filibuster, he decided to vote with the 99 other senators in deciding to allow the debate to continue on the very legislation he wanted to block. Let’s all take a moment to bask in the irony.

One thing is clear, however: Americans do not want this shutdown to happen. The stalemate needs to end – if Democrats, independents, Republicans, and even Tea Party voters can come together to say this can’t happen, then surely the members of Congress can get it together enough to make sure this doesn’t happen. In the latest New York Times/CBS News poll, eight in 10 Americans say that to threaten a shutdown is obnoxious to say the least – and all over budget negotiations at that. A compromise of some sort needs to be found – surely the Republicans can find some middle ground with the Democrats and our President. And if a shutdown does occur, all parties will be equally at fault.

But the countdown isn’t just on for this potential shutdown. The next battle Congress faces is a big brute, too: the infamous debt ceiling. The United States has bills to pay, too. But Treasury Secretary Jack Lew released a statement that the cash balance he has to pay said bills hovers around $30 billion (rather than the $50 billion he initially estimated). And insufficient cash means our government will not be able to “meet all of its obligations for the first time in our history,” according to Lew. So basically, Congress has until October 17 to raise the debt ceiling. If not, our Treasury will only be able to pay with that $30 billion cash on hand and any additional revenue that flows in. These “bills” include payments for veterans benefits, Medicare, and Society Security as well as payments for military personnel, other federal workers, and bond investors. However, if Congress does raise the debt ceiling, this does not mean they should spend more, but simply live up to the obligations it has already promised to the nation’s citizens. Both Democrats and Republicans alike have made commitments to the American people throughout the years and now it’s time to pay the piper. So in support of spending cuts, Republicans are aiming for one thing – you guessed it: defunding Obamacare. Oh my God, it somehow all ties together. Mind blown.

And in the absence of raising the debt ceiling come mid-October, Republicans in the House have told the Treasury to simply prioritize which payments are more important. Either way, that still means the government is defaulting. What happened to that American value of honoring our commitments? Or are the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts the only ones doing that these days? I’m still waiting on my cookies, by the way.

The next month will prove very telling for our federal government. Members of Congress and our President have some decisions to make, both by the end of September and by the end of October. All we as Americans can do is sit and wait. And count down.

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