Government shutdown for Normans: Understanding politics with Hinojosa

Government shutdown for Normans: Understanding politics with Hinojosa


Dami Kim, culture editor

Campers at national parks were informed to leave within two days. Tourists at national museums were welcomed by closed doors with a notice to leave immediately.

Government shutdown. What does this term actually mean?

According to the Congressional Research Service, there have been 17 government partial shutdowns since 1977, and it has been 17 years since the last shutdown. Although the term may seem unfamiliar today, it certainly is not unfamiliar in the history of U.S. government.

Shutdowns occur when Congress cannot agree on a spending bill. Under the Constitution, Congress must pass laws in order to spend money on bills that can fund the government. In the case of the recent shutdown, Congress had no other option but to halt all functions of the government, since the House of Representative and the Senate could not compromise. Consequently, a Congress without a set plan for spending must stop working until other means can be met.

So what was the problem with the spending bill?

The argument between the Republican-dominated House and the Democrat-dominated Senate was over a new spending bill that included provisions to defund Affordable Care Act (more commonly known as “Obamacare.”) Presented by the Republicans, the bill suggested that Obamacare would be delayed for a year. Although the health care law is not directly related to the funding issues, it is being used as a “bargaining chip,” according to CNN.


Ask a teacher:

Government and economics teacher Roel Hinojosa’s response to the government shutdown.


Q: How would you describe this shutdown in simple terms?

 A: I guess the word “shutdown” is not being used accurately by the media because not all aspects of the government are shutting down. It would be more accurate to say that it is a “slowdown,” since nonessential services of the government will be shut down, but essential self-funding agencies will still continue working.


Q: What was the major catalyst that caused the government to shut down?

 A: I don’t know if there was a major catalyst for causing this [shutdown] to happen, because Republicans seem to have been planning to shut down the government for many months and years. Even some House Republican leaders have gone on record saying that this was their intention all along, going back several years to 2011. This issue over the spending bill was the perfect opportunity for them to shut down the government over Obamacare because these changes started on the very same day that the government shut down. So I think that many politicians have been planning strategies before this, so I don’t think it was unexpected. But the ostensible reason for it is to keep the government funded and to defund Obamacare.


Q: What is your opinion about the shutdown?

 A: My opinion is that there may be serious problems with Obamacare and there are very legitimate reasons for being opposed to it. No one is clear if the health care will help to decrease the debt long-term. Also, states are being required to do certain things that may not be constitutional. In fact, the Supreme Court commented that certain provisions of Obamacare were unconstitutional on states’ rights issues. And the idea of forcing Americans to buy health insurance is problematic. If you believe that the government should play a small role in the economy and people’s lives, then opposing Obamacare is a consistent objective. Though I do not share this view, I can appreciate the opposing criticisms.

But the usual way in democracy for the voters to register dissatisfaction with Obamacare should be through presidential and congressional elections. And in terms of the presidential election, the American voters have already voiced that they would rather have a president who supports Obamacare, like Obama, as opposed to McCain or Romney.

In regards to the congressional election, it is true that the Republicans took control of the House in 2010. But in 2012, they lost seats in the House and failed to gain control of the Senate, although there were many expectations that they would gain control. So what they seem to be doing in the House right now, seems to be going against the normal, democratic way of litigating these issues.

Lastly, many Democrats are accusing the Republicans of holding the country hostage. I do agree with this general assessment. If the Republicans have a point to make, they should be using elections as their means.