Why the shutdown won't save money: Fights in 90s cost $1.5B

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) appears at a press conference on September 30, 2013 after the Senate voted to table House legislation to avert a government shutdown by defunding the Affordable Health.

As the House and Senate continue kicking spending plans back and forth, here is what you need to know:

A government shutdown does not mean an Obamacare shutdown. Even though House Republicans are pushing for changes to the Affordable Care Act, it is funded in such a way that it will continue even if there is a partial government shutdown. This means the “exchanges,” where people can search for coverage plans, are still set to be unveiled Tuesday as planned.

A government shutdown will not save the government any money. In fact, a shutdown will cost the government money. Shutdowns that lasted about 22 days in the Clinton era cost about $1.5 billion. A shutdown is not expected have a major effect on the October 17 deadline that the Obama Administration has given Congress to raise the nation’s borrowing limit.

Here is what will happen, according to President Obama, who spoke Monday afternoon:

If you’re on Social Security, you will keep receiving your checks. If you’re on Medicare, your doctor will still see you. Everyone’s mail will still be delivered. And government operations related to national security or public safety will go on. Our troops will continue to serve with skill, honor, and courage. Air traffic controllers, prison guards, those who are with border control -- our Border Patrol will remain on their posts, but their paychecks will be delayed until the government reopens. NASA will shut down almost entirely, but Mission Control will remain open to support the astronauts serving on the Space Station.

And here, according to the president, is what would change:

Office buildings would close.  Paychecks would be delayed.  Vital services that seniors and veterans, women and children, businesses and our economy depend on would be hamstrung.  Business owners would see delays in raising capital, seeking infrastructure permits, or rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy.  Veterans who’ve sacrificed for their country will find their support centers unstaffed.  Tourists will find every one of America’s national parks and monuments, from Yosemite to the Smithsonian to the Statue of Liberty, immediately closed.  And of course, the communities and small businesses that rely on these national treasures for their livelihoods will be out of customers and out of luck.

About the author

David Gura is a reporter for Marketplace, based in the Washington, D.C. bureau.

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