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US government shuts down, Tuesday, after Congress fails to pass budget

On Tuesday, Oct. 1, the federal agencies across the country began to feel the affects of the  government shutdown; a result of lawmakers failing to pass a budget in the face of Republican attacks on President Obama's health care law.

For the first time in 17 years, Congress did not pass a new budget and refused to extend the current one.

Without the authority to spend money, about 40 percent of the nation's two million federal workers, (800,000) will be furloughed for an unknown amount of time and many government agencies prepared to close their doors.

Non-essential government services - like the National Park Service, wildlife refuges, federal museums and monuments - are among those that will temporarily close. When this happened in 1995-96, 9 million visitors were turned away. There will also be delays in processing gun permits, some court cases, the approval of mortgage applications and passport and visa applications - nothing essential, just inconvenient for those seeking the services and bad for parts of the economy.

How long is the shutdown likely to last? The last shutdown was in 1995-96, when the government shutdown twice - five days between Nov. 13-19, and for 21 days between Dec. 15-Jan. 6. That shutdown was led Congressional Republicans and House Speaker Newt Gingrich - and was thought to have hurt Republicans, which controlled the House and the Senate, more than Clinton.

Since 1976, there have been 17 government shutdowns.

What makes this shutdown unique is that one faction, the ultra-conservatives, within the Republican Party is using this to try and derail President Obama's Affordable Health Care Act, which goes into effect Oct. 1. But shutting down the government will not affect implementation of the act. It is a bill that passed three years ago (in 2010) by a majority in Congress and is the law of the land.

Despite this, the House's most ardent conservatives were resigned to seeing through their war on the health care law to its inevitable conclusion, a shutdown. This move is likely to test voters' patience with Republican brinkmanship.

According to a CNN/ORC International poll released Monday morning, most Americans think Republicans in Congress are acting like spoiled children in this fiscal fight. Only one in four say congressional Republicans are acting like responsible adults.

How is the government shutdown going to affect Vermonters? Sen. Bernie Sanders said in a statement last week that it would cause a loss of jobs and income for thousands of Vermonters and hurt seniors, veterans, college students and others in the state. A shutdown could affect tourism as Vermont enters the peak of fall leaf season and interfere with health care services at the outset of the flu season.

The shutdown also risks disrupting a recovering economy, especially as the nation approaches another fiscal cliff on Oct. 17, when Congress and the president will have to agree to raise the debt limit to pay the nation's bills - bills that the country has already spent, the bulk of which is on defense and entitlement programs. Economists argue that while a short-term government shutdown will not likely have a long-lasting effect on the economy, failing to raise the debt limit could be catastrophic. With two week looming ahead, lawmakers will seek a resolution.