Kinda, sorta paying attention to the government shutdown? Read this and get caught up.

October 4, 2013

The federal government shutdown is in its fourth day.

Unless you've shielded yourself from news media completely (and you wouldn't be reading The Fix if you had!) you already knew that.

But what's going in the political debate over funding the government? A lot. And sometimes it all moves too fast to keep up with, blow by blow.

Below, we catch you up on where things stand, and what's next. (Spoiler alert: We don't know how it ends, nor does anyone, it seems.)

You're right, I knew there was a shutdown. But why did this all happen again?

When the clock struck midnight Monday, the bill that funded the federal government expired. Congress failed to pass a new one. House Republicans repeatedly tried to tie the bill to changes to President Obama's health-care law. Senate Democrats repeatedly said no and demanded that the GOP pass a bill that doesn't touch Obamacare. Neither side flinched. And here we are.


Got it. How many federal government employees have been put out of work?

Hundreds of thousands. And it all translates to about $150 million in lost wages every day in the D.C. area, according to one analysis. Click over to Wonkblog for a detailed explanation on what stays open, including anything related to national security and public safety.


The Swift Run Gap entrance to Skyline Drive near Elkton, Va., in the Shenandoah National Park posted signs letting visitors know the park is closed. (Jason Lenhart/Daily News-Record via AP)

So why don't they just end this already?

Because no one has budged all week and we still have a stalemate. Democrats (and even 20 House Republicans) want a "clean" CR rather than something with strings attached related to Obamacare or something else. Republicans disagree. "Our goal here wasn't to shut down the government," said House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Friday. "Our goal here was to bring fairness to the American people under "Obamacare."


Paul Swaney shows chess moves to students at the Greenbriar West Elementary School chess in Chantilly. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

You said 20 House Republicans support a "clean" CR. Isn't that enough to pass one in the House assuming all Democrats vote for it?

Yes. But it will never happen. Because Boehner won't allow it. If he did, he would face outrage from his conference that could spell the end of his speakership.

Sounds like some nasty words have been exchanged?

"Some" would be an understatement. Outraged by a quote attributed to an anonymous senior administration official claiming to be "winning" the shutdown showdown, Boehner sternly said Friday that "this isn't some damn game." Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has accused House Republicans of playing "irresponsible, reckless games." And that's just a sampling.

Who's getting blamed?

So far, congressional Republicans more than Democrats or Obama. But not by as wide a margin compared to the 1995 shutdowns.


If you had to create a shutdown playlist, what would it sound like?

Like this.

Is there anything Democrats and Republicans agree on? Anything at all?

They agreed on a measure to keep military personnel paid during the shutdown. And they appear to have coalesced around a measure to ensure retroactive pay for furloughed federal employees.


(Jeffrey MacMillan/Capital Business)

Sure, but that won't solve the shutdown itself. What will?

That's the big question that has no easy answer right now. As you ponder it, there are three things to bear in mind: 1. The Post's Lori Montgomery, Debbi Wilgoren and Ed O’Keefe report that some GOP lawmakers are pushing for a broader deal to reduce the nation's debt. 2. National Review's Robert Costa reports that House Republicans are moving toward a deal that would tie a debt limit extension and a government funding bill to conservative demands. (The U.S. will hit its borrowing limit on Oct. 17, according to the Treasury.) 3. Finally, while it has been voted down in a previous bill, there is appetite from both Democrats and Republicans to repeal a medical device tax that is part of Obamacare. Democrats aren't willing to debate the tax in the context of the short-term budget, and it's unclear that on its own, repealing the tax would be enough to satisfy House conservatives. Still, it's riper for compromise than many other areas.


(James Steidl)

So what happens next?

Obama canceled his trip to Asia, so he will be in Washington as the shutdown continues in the coming days. The House will vote Saturday on ensuring retroactive pay. That's what we know. There's a whole lot we don't know, like how it will all end. (Hey, we warned you with the spoiler alert.)


It's a working weekend for House lawmakers. (Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg)
Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.
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Chris Cillizza · October 4, 2013