Rather than opening for business on Tuesday morning, many federal government offices stayed closed instead. The United States government is shutting down until lawmakers can agree on a budget.
A budget is a plan for how money will be earned and spent. Lawmakers have to agree on a budget every year to keep the government running. But lawmakers could not agree by September 30, when by law a new budget has to be ready for the following year. Until Congress—the two houses of U.S. lawmakers, called the Senate and the House of Representatives—can make a new budget, many offices of the government will stay closed.
The shutdown is expected to be temporary, or lasting only a short period of time. Parts of the government necessary to keep the country running will stay open—such as the military, post offices, and transportation security.
But national parks, passport offices, and many other government offices are either closed or have fewer people working in them. More than 800,000 government employees will stay home from work. Many of these workers will not be collecting paychecks during the shutdown period. Without a budget, the government cannot pay them to do their jobs.
There are two main political parties in the U.S.: Republicans and Democrats. These two parties disagree on what to do about many issues facing the country. But both groups have to come together when making laws and planning the government’s budget.
Why didn’t they reach an agreement this year? The two parties are arguing over a health-care law that was signed into law by President Obama three years ago. The law is scheduled to take effect over the next year. Most Democrats support the law. But many Republicans think the law is too expensive for both Americans and the government. So this year’s budget plans from Republicans included limiting and delaying the health-care law. Democrats refused to approve this version of the budget, and neither party was able to reach an agreement in time.
The shutdown will continue until both sides approve a budget. But shutdowns have not lasted long in the past. The last one happened in 1995, when offices were closed for 21 days.
Politicians from both parties have said they hope an agreement can be reached soon.