Definition of US shutdown

US ShutdownParts of the US government shut down on October 1 2013, the end of the fiscal year, for the first time since 1996, because the Republican controlled House of Representatives and Democrat-controlled Senate could not agree on a budget nor on a wider fiscal policy.

In the US, government-wide spending is set by appropriation bills. If these aren't passed by the end of the fiscal year (30 September) then 'continuing resolutions' are passed to ensure that spending continues at a similar rate. Should Congress fail to agree, a 'funding gap' results.

On 20 September 2013, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed the Continuing Appropriations Resolution of 2014, indlucing language that delayed the Affordable Care Act (commonly known as 'Obamacare'). On 27 September, the Democrat-controlled Senate removed the 'Obamacare'-related measures, only for them to be reinstated by the House of Representatives in the version of the resolution passed on 29 September. The Senate refused to pass this bill and failure to develop a compromise bill led to the shutdown of the federal government, due to lack of appropriated funds.

As a result, 800,000 federal workers were forced into unpaid leave whereas a further 1.3m were required to work without pay until the issue was resolved.

Some government agencies were affected more than others. According to the Office of Management and Budget, about 97 per cent of employees at Nasa were slated to be put on unpaid leave as well as 93 per cent of the Environmental Protection Agency. However, only 4 per cent of veterans affairs staff, 14 per cent of homeland security employees and 15 per cent of the justice department were due to be sent on leave.

It was expected that most of the people responsible for the rollout of the health insurance marketplaces for Obamacare, President Barack Obama's healthcare law that also came into effect on October 1 2013, would be able to go to work because their funding is provided by the Affordable Care Act and not tied to annual spending legislation.

It was unclear how long the shutdown would last because it was triggered by ideological rather than technical issues. After the Senate rejected a House bill that included a one-year delay to Mr Obama's 2010 health law, the House voted 228 to 201 for a new bill that tied government funding to Obamacare. The Senate later rejected that bill and refused an offer to form a negotiating committee with the Republican controlled House. Democrats said the offer was a ploy.

Mr Obama has said he is willing to negotiate over bigger budget issues but is not willing to accept changes to Obamacare.