Federal government shuts down

An estimated 800,000 federal workers may end up furloughed this week, now that Congress has missed a deadline for setting a budget.

Democrats and Republicans have been at odds, to say the least, over funding the Affordable Care Act. House Republicans in particular were vocal about their wish to de-fund health care reforms, but Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says new health insurance marketplaces are launching Tuesday morning even with no budget in place.

The question now in Washington is how to move forward. Democrats want a continuing resolution to effectively keep money flowing for six weeks. Republicans, especially those in the House, want to meet in conference with Senators.

ESU economics professor Rob Catlett says it's important lawmakers now approve the spending authority to minimize any impact of this shutdown, the first in 17 years, but he's more worried about the looming debate when the government reaches its borrowing limit in about two weeks. If lawmakers can't agree on a course of action, he says there are two choices: shut down many federal departments or default on $14 billion worth of obligations.

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Catlett says higher interest rates would translate to fewer government services so the country could service its debt load. He says it would be better for Congress to find a short-term solution, or "kick the can down the road," instead of not acting.

The shutdown is being felt locally, with the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve and Farm Service Agency both shut down until further notice. Not only are offices closed, but affected federal agencies are also closing down their social media work until funding resumes.

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