The U.S. government shut down at 12:01 a.m. ET Tuesday after lawmakers in the House and the Senate could not agree on a spending bill to fund the government, CNN reports. It's the first time in 17 years Democrats and Republicans have failed to agree on a budget plan. The two sides bickered and blamed each other for more than a week over Obamacare, the president's signature health care law. House Republicans insisted the spending bill include anti-Obamacare amendments, while Senate Democrats insisted that it didn't.
Federal employees who are considered essential will continue working, but employees deemed non-essential -- close to 800,000 -- will face indefinite furloughs. Some of the largest furloughs will hit the Pentagon and 400,000 of its civilian workers, according to POLITICO. All federal employees will still show up for work Tuesday, where their managers will distribute the official notices on who is and isn't essential to daily operations. The furloughed workers will have until about lunchtime Tuesday to wrap up any last-minute business and be out of their offices.
The Democrat-controlled Senate rejected three compromise solutions offered by House Republicans that would have temporarily addressed Republican concerns about Obamacare while also allowing the federal government to operate, reports the Christian News Service.
"If there's any single issue that can unite House Republicans and has the strong support of the American people, it's getting rid of Obamacare," said Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-ID), cosponsor of a resolution introduced by Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA) to fund the government for fiscal year 2014 while fully delaying and defunding Obamacare until 2015. The Graves resolution, which had 59 cosponsors, would have prevented a government shutdown from taking place after September 30, 2013, when current funding for the government expired.
"House Republicans should listen to the majority of Americans that are worried that Obamacare would negatively impact their health care," Labrador said. "The administration has already delayed the employer mandate to 2015. The Congress should delay the mandate for American families too."
Emery McClendon, member of the Project 21 black leadership network and a tea party organizer in Fort Wayne, Ind., says more than 70 percent of the American people don't want Obamacare, but Democrats have refused to accept Republican proposals omitting it. "In the mainstream media you're seeing the blame being put on Republicans," McClendon said. "The Republicans in the House are actually doing what's best for the American people; if the people would just check into it they would see the truth behind this."
Tea Party Express, the nation's largest tea party political action committee, slammed President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and the Democratic Senate for their recalcitrance to solving the current debate on funding the government.
"For weeks now, Republicans have been alone at the negotiating table," said Tea Party Express chairman Amy Kremer. "President Obama and the Senate Democrats have ignored every opportunity to join their colleagues across the aisle to find a solution. Instead, they have been committed to taking the low road and filling the airwaves with demagoguery and name-calling."
President Obama blamed the GOP for the government shutdown and said his health care bill was "moving forward." Because many of the core parts of Obamacare are funded through mandatory appropriations, the government shutdown will not put the brakes on implementing Obamacare. The state-run exchanges for the uninsured will open as scheduled Tuesday.
It's the first time a government shutdown has happened in more than 17 years. The last shutdown, sparked by a budget battle between Democratic President Bill Clinton and a Republican Congress, lasted for 21 days in 1995 and 1996.
Dr. Jim Denison of the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture writes that the larger issue behind the government shutdown is more cultural than political: "There was a day when our society affirmed a basic moral consensus and expected our political leaders to reflect and advance this consensus for the common good. Compromise by both parties was an essential part of the process. Today we have no such moral foundation, so each party (or group within the parties) is left to legislate its own version of reality, using any political means at its disposal. Government is broken because the society that elects it is broken."
How can we respond to the government shutdown? Denison continues: "Before we deserve leaders who can govern from a moral consensus, we must achieve that consensus ourselves. The process starts with you and me. Are we praying daily for the moral and spiritual awakening we need, beginning with us? Do we seek our personal agendas or God's best for our lives and nation?"
Anna Kuta is the editor of ReligionToday.com.