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Federal Government Shutdown of 2013: Causes and Effects

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Politics
Wordcount: 1908 words Published: 16th Apr 2019

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Government Shutdown 2013: What Happened?


This paper will examine the federal government shutdown of 2013 it’s causes and effects, the perpetrators, and the lasting ramifications present today. With another government shutdown always on the rise in American politics, it’s important to analyze the ramifications and foundations for a shutdown. The drafting of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) created a toxic political environment resulting in Tea Party members insisting on a government shutdown to “work out” the kinks of Obamacare and democratic congressman being defiant in protecting the signature Obama era legislation. More than Democrats, Republicans were negatively affected by the shutdown including most of the United States putting blame on solely Republicans or a combination of both parties. The shutdown directly and indirectly affected many Americans for more than weeks and costed the U.S. billions of dollars. It is hoped that this will help America learn from its mistakes and not opt into another government shutdown yet again.

Keywords: Republicans, Democrats, Obamacare, insistent, shutdown

From October 1 through the 16th of 2013 the United States federal government shutdown as neither legislature appropriated funds for the following fiscal year of 2014. Regular working government resumed October 17 due to an interim appropriations bill being signed into law. During the shutdown, roughly 800,000 federal employees were furloughed for an undetermined period of time. Plus, an addition 1.3 million employees were required to report to work without knowing when they were to be paid. The shutdown lasted 16 days and was the third longest government shutdown in U.S. history, behind the 1978 18-day shutdown and the 1995-1996 21-day shutdown.

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The financial backup was created when the two chambers of congress were not successful in agreeing to appropriate funds for the government. Congress failed to come to an agreement on a budget after Republican lawmakers in the House of Representatives began pushing to defund the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act also known as Obamacare. Unsurprisingly, the senate led by the Democrats, and the Obama administration rejected the propositions and the dead lock led to the government shutdown. Congress has a key duty enamored in the Constitution, to pass spending bills that fund the government. If it doesn’t, most functions of the government halt; services like Social Security, air traffic control and active military pay will be funded. Let’s not forget that Congress gets paid too during government shutdowns (Yan, 2013).

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires all Americans to have health insurance. Republicans said it would hurt small business employers and overreach of the federal government. The democrats defense in a nutshell, is that the law will expand access to healthcare to a majority of Americans and help stifle the rising costs of Healthcare coverage. Proponents also voice that those with health insurance will no longer have to indirectly pay for those people who end up in emergency rooms uninsured. This toxic mix of differing opinions led to Congress creating a funding gap for the federal government.

The Tea Party and the Heritage Action for America used Obamacare as a bargaining chip to fund the government. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act isn’t directly connected in funding the government. However, the group of Republicans, most notably led my infamous Tea Partier Ted Cruz of Texas were insistent that Obamacare was so bad for the country that it was worth shutting the government down. On the other side, Democrats were insistent that Obamacare would remain the law of the land and were not going to hear dissenting opinions on the matter.

Key players are as follows, not in any particular order of importance: John Boehner, Harry Reid, Eric Cantor, Barack Obama, Ted Cruz, Nancy Pelosi, and Mitch McConnell. Isn’t it funny how the names haven’t changed all that much from 2013. It’s almost as if America doesn’t learn its lessons from year to year. John Boehner was the Speaker of the House of the U.S. Representatives and led the republican opposition along with the majority leader Eric Cantor in the House. Championing the Democratic cause in the House was minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, yet there was little she could have done with such a big Republican majority. On the other side of the 113th Congress was majority leader in the Senate Harry Reid defending Obamacare, with opposition coming most notably from Ted Cruz and his superior Mitch McConnell. And let’s not forget the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s father, Barack Obama. He was not about to let his first domestic landmark piece of legislation be picked apart by Republicans in Congress.

In short, the Republicans in the House and Senate wanted to kill or seriously dismantle Obamacare. It was not tied in any way to funding the government but they thought of it as a way to bargain with Democrats. Republicans assumed (incorrectly however) that if Democrats wanted to keep funding the government they would give some political power to the Republicans by means of disassembling Obamacare; seeing as Democrats did not control both houses of congress. However, Obamacare was not repealed. Obamacare was not defunded. Obamacare was not delayed. The individual mandate was not delayed. The medical-device tax was not repealed. The health-insurance subsidies given to members of Congress and their staffs was not taken away. What the Republicans did however get was their poll numbers tanking, and a big portion of their base being ticked off, most notably the elderly and veterans. And in my opinion, seriously hurt Ted Cruz’s hopes of sweeping the nomination for the Republic nominee in the 2016 Republican presidential primary. Nevertheless, during the 2014 midterms, Republicans gained 9 seats in the senate and 13 in the House.

Democrats wanted what they needed to accomplish to keep the government running. They wanted to further fund the government, increase the debt ceiling and keep the fundamental promises of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Rather than trying to pass one continuing resolution to fund the government. Republicans in the House tried a strategy of “piece-mealing” bills to fund national parks, museums, the National Institute of Health, the city of Washington D.C., Department of Veterans Affairs, WIC, and FEMA. In 16 days, the U.S. House of Representatives passed 10 bills to partially fund different portions of the federal government. These bills were opposed by congressional Democrats and ignored by the Senate in favor of passing one full resolution (Kasperowicz, 2013).

In a Fox News poll conducted during the first two days of the shutdown, 42% of registered voters blamed Republicans for the shutdown (17% blamed ‘Republican leaders’ and 25% blamed ‘Tea Party Republicans such as Ted Cruz’); while 32% blamed Democrats (24% blamed ‘President Obama’ and 8% blamed ‘Democratic leaders’). The rest, 20%, said all sides were to blame (Clements, 2013).

In addition, according to the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, Republican efforts to defund or delay the Affordable Care Act through a government shutdown had caused an increase in popular approval of the law, from 31%, just before the shutdown, to 38% (Ungar, 2013).

If only the Republicans could have predicted the future, they might have been more apt to avoid the shutdown; especially knowing now that the popularity of Obamacare went up a whopping 7 points. With the shutdown, Obamacare’s public polling has only increased, maybe without the shutdown, Republicans would have had more luck trying to “repeal and replace” the current law in 2017.

The White House estimated that a one week shutdown would cost the United States economy $10 billion. People directly affected by the shutdown were the 800,000 federal employees furloughed indefinitely, and the millions of “reserve components of the Armed Forces.” Including the Army National Guard, Army Reserve, Navy Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve, Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve, and Coast Guard Reserve (Michaels, 2013).

Those indirectly affected by the government shutdown including those businesses that rely heavily of government employee’s dollars. Especially any business running in Washington D.C.

Native Americans were big losers during the shutdown. Although the Bureau of Indian Affairs continued to run programs during the shutdown that were considered essential, including police services and firefighting. It stopped funding tribal governments as well as many programs and services that provide necessary support for impoverished reservations (Frosch, 2013). The cuts closed programs that provided income, medical care, food, transportation, and foster care to communities.

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In my opinion, America has a long way to go from learning from its mistakes. Looking at the leadership in Congress than versus now, it hasn’t changed all that much, and maybe that’s the problem.  Congress and to be honest, most Americans, know nothing of compromise. We are just on a never-ending cycle of one administration in power implementing programs and dismantling programs from the previous administration, and so on. We have a culture of “my way or the highway.” And maybe it’s American tenacity… or just plain stubbornness.


  • Barro, J. (2013, September 17). Ted Cruz Is Making Life Miserable For House Republicans. Retrieved October 12, 2017, from http://www.businessinsider.com/ted-cruz-is-making-life-miserable-for-house-republicans-2013-9
  • Clement, S. (2013, October 04). Republicans are losing the shutdown blame game. Retrieved October 13, 2017, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2013/10/04/republicans-are-losing-the-shutdown-blame-game/?utm_term=.21aa19ce59ae
  • Frosch, D. (2013, October 13). Pulling Aid Away, Shutdown Deepens Indians’ Distress. Retrieved November 26, 2017, from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/14/us/pulling-aid-away-shutdown-deepens-indians-distress.html
  • Kasperowicz, P. (2016, February 04). Monday: Government shutdown enters second week. Retrieved October 13, 2017, from http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/house/326825-monday-government-shutdown-enters-second-week
  • Michaels, J. (2013, October 01). Government shutdown has impact on military bases. Retrieved October 14, 2017, from https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2013/10/01/bragg-hagel-obama-shutdown/2903915/
  • Ungar, R. (2013, October 11). Boomerang! Poll Reveals GOP’s Government Shutdown Bolstered Obamacare’s Popularity By 20%. Retrieved October 12, 2017, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/rickungar/2013/10/11/boomerang-poll-reveals-gops-government-shutdown-bolstered-obamacare-popularity-by-20/#39fc14203946
  • Yan, H. (2013, October 01). Government shutdown: What you need to know – CNNPolitics. Retrieved October 12, 2017, from http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/30/politics/government-shutdown-up-to-speed/index.html


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