Government Shutdown



  • I'm not talking about the politics that cause this to happen. I'm talking about it being the default option. Every other country in the world sees this as somewhere between baffling and absurd! I mean, Belgium didn't have a government for months a couple of years ago, but instead of shutting down everything ticked over smoothly until they did have one again.



    Why is your government so weird?



  • It happened in Australia, once. The Governor General (officially the Queen's Representative) stepped in, sacked the entire government and called an election. Caused a huge controversy, but one thing it did do was fix the problem. Oh, and give us a memorable bit of footage from a the disgruntled politician who had been sacked. "Well may we say 'God Save the Queen'. Because NOTHING will save the Governor General." Well, he lost the election, and Kerr finished his term, even though he wasn't all that good at his job, and gave the press too many pictures of him under the weather in public!



  • @robbak said:

    It happened in Australia, once.
     

    That's not government shutdown. Congress/senate is not going to get sacked, it's "just" all govermnent activities that are suspended. So people aren't getting paid (except politicians) and programs aren't running. It's quite nutty that such a thing can happen.



  • Moreover, why is the NSA exempt? They've been unable to find the one nefarious guy with a pressure cooker in time, so no harm done if they go home for a while.



  •  Every day,  I check NASA's picture of the day: http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/astropix.html

    But now it's just not responding at all. Instead of just leaving the same page up for several days while they quibble over nonsense, no, they actually went out of their way to shut the site down. They're actually spending money to prevent spending money...



  • @pbean said:

     Every day,  I check NASA's picture of the day: http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/astropix.html

    But now it's just not responding at all. Instead of just leaving the same page up for several days while they quibble over nonsense, no, they actually went out of their way to shut the site down. They're actually spending money to prevent spending money...

    Switching a server off doesn't really count as spending money.



  • @eViLegion said:

    Belgium didn't have a government for months a couple of years ago

    They had a government, just not a cabinet/administration*. In the US they have a cabinet, but now mostly no government.

    I don't know what the result would be in the US if this happens (having no cabinet), but this is a fundamental difference: in the US the cabinet actively shut down the government.

    I might be imprice on terms here: with cabinet I mean the ruling organs of the government, in this case th eUS congress



  • @eViLegion said:

    .. I'm talking about it being the default option. Every other country in the world sees this as somewhere between baffling and absurd!.. but instead of shutting down everything ticked over smoothly until they did have one again.

    Why is your government so weird?

     

    If you have a business, and the business does not have any funds (for example to make payroll, to pay the utilities)....what else would you do? 

    What is often "baffling" is why some services are deemed critical. There are the obvious ones that must keep running, but there are a whole slew of elements where a shutdown would not (in any obvious way) cause immediate harm to national security or the general population...yet they are authorized to keep running...



  • @dhromed said:

    So people aren't getting paid (except politicians) and programs aren't running. It's quite nutty that such a thing can happen.

    Actually "essential" programs are still running, and while people (government employees) aren't getting paid right now, more of them are working than not; they'll get back pay after the shutdown. Social Security and Medicare (which together consume a little less than half of the federal budget normally) are still running, albeit with less capacity.

    Maybe everything except for national security should stop running during these shutdowns. It'd be horrible in the long term, with an entire nation's citizens being punished for the failures of their representatives. But in the long term, maybe it'd result in mass recalls, so that'd be a plus.



  • @dhromed said:

    @robbak said:

    It happened in Australia, once.
     

    That's not government shutdown. Congress/senate is not going to get sacked, it's "just" all govermnent activities that are suspended. So people aren't getting paid (except politicians) and programs aren't running. It's quite nutty that such a thing can happen.

    It's called 'withholding supply' in Australia, and it happened when the upper house, the senate, refuses to pass the budget, created by the government and passed by the lower house. It has a similar effect to this government shutdown in the US.

    In our case, there is someone who can use 'reserve powers' to break the deadlock. The constitution also states that, if the senate refuses to pass any bill three times, the government has the right to call a 'double dissolution', which puts all seats in both houses up for election.



  • @heterodox said:

     .. with an entire nation's citizens being punished for the failures of their representatives...
     

    Sounds like it could actually be a benefit overall....after all they are (largely) elected by the nations citizens. Consider a criminal trial, the lawyer is the representative of the client, if something "fails" in the lawyers performance (short of gross neglect)...it is indeed the client who gets the punishment.



  • @eViLegion said:

    hy is your government so weird?
    Because most countries in Europe don't have the extensive checks and balances that the USA have.

    You have to keep in mind that, when the US Constitution etc. was drawn up, Europe had experienced the Englightenment, which in terms of government meant that the king did nice things for his people, whilst still being an absolute monarch. Pretty much only the UK had moved on from that.

     However, the USA was almost an experiment in nation building. They got rid of all the stuff they hated from Old Europe, such as Bills of Attainder, and started with a clean sheet. And they made sure that no single person could grab too munch power.

    Like most revolutions, however, things were not perfect from the start. The system in the USA has some fundamental problems that will be difficult to solve without taking away some of the very principles of the state, which will be unpalatable to the vast majority of the Americans. The idea of checks and balances is that you come together to find compromise. However, if those involved refuse to come together, you have a problem. And the first-past-the-post system with electoral districts favours the more radical and less inclined to compromise.

    The system in most of Europe is much more of an evolution. The French Revolution has been incredibly important in world history, but after those chaotic years and the Terror, things calmed down and evolved to the current state of affairs. France is an exception in the sense that it has a presidential system, unlike most of Europe which has a parliamentary system, but it differs enough from the US system so that such a situation as the current shutdown is highly unlikely, if not entirely impossible.

    As for most of the rest of Europe, the government (the executive) can always rely on a majority in parliament (the legislative). If the government loses its majority, it'll have to resign, and new elections are held. The current government will stay on as a caretaker, until a new government has been formed. Italy may be facign just that today.

    But when it comes to weird countries, you mentioned Belgium. That would most definitely top my list of dysfunctional government and an overly complex structure.



  • @eViLegion said:

    I mean, Belgium didn't have a government for months a couple of years ago, but instead of shutting down everything ticked over smoothly until they did have one again.

    We have a government. They just haven't gone through the formality of saying how much and how they're going to spend this year. Does your government have to follow the law? The law said, "here's a budget for the next year or so." And then when that year passes, there is no authority (for many things) to spend any more money. Some programs (like Social Security and benefits for military veterans) are more or less perpetually funded (though not necessarily all of the supporting bureaucracy for those things).



  • I think it's ridiculous that the congressmen/senators are getting paid while they have caused a shutdown. They should not get paid as an incentive for them not to pull shit like this.


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    @russ0519 said:

    I think it's ridiculous that the congressmen/senators are getting paid while they have caused a shutdown. They should not get paid as an incentive for them not to pull shit like this.

    Yeah! We should pass legislation that stops them from getting paid. I'm sure it will have no problem getting through the system.



  • @eViLegion said:

    I'm not talking about the politics that cause this to happen. I'm talking about it being the default option.

    You can't really separate those. It's the default option purely for political reasons. :)

    The funny thing is, I used to work in government archives (before programming), and I have just a tiny inkling of the massive amounts of money that our government wastes every day on absolute crap. Whenever a "government shutdown" happens, the person-wanting-more-money (who is always the current person-in-power) makes sure to shut down the parts of the government that people will notice - so things like the national parks are first on the cutting block.

    But that's completely unnecessary. There are countless[1] things our government is constantly doing that no one would (immediately) notice if they were cut, yet they continue right along during a "shutdown".

    -Steve

    [1] OK, it's not actually countless. I strongly suspect (but have not proved) that it's aleph-null. :)



  • Exactly, things like the NSA.



  • @koek said:

    Exactly, things like the NSA.

    Presuming you are talking about those items which were shutdown vs. those still operationing due to the critical nature of their work....The NSA is definately in the latter group.

    I spend 15 years in the DEfense Industry, and my paths crossed with the NSA on a number of occasions. "The public" may not like some of the things they do, but I would be much more worried if there was not someone "on our side" doing these things (and many more that never make mainstream news).

     Oh oh...theres a knock on my door...those guys are getting faster...gotta go....



  • @TheCPUWizard said:

    I spend 15 years in the DEfense Industry, and my paths crossed with the NSA on a number of occasions. "The public" may not like some of the things they do, but I would be much more worried if there was not someone "on our side" doing these things (and many more that never make mainstream news).

    I'm fine with them spying on the rest of the world. It's amusing to hear other countries getting in a huff about their signals being read by the NSA. WTF did you think they did? What do you think other spy organizations do? It's the fact that so much of their attention is now domestic that's worrying.



  • I work for the US Gov't and I'm here to tell you, its been shutdown for years.



  • @boomzilla said:

    It's the fact that so much of their attention is now domestic that's worrying.

    I am talking about 30-35 years ago, and DOMESTIC activities then... so it is the "now" that I dispute in the above quote...



  • @TheCPUWizard said:

    @boomzilla said:

    It's the fact that so much of their attention is now domestic that's worrying.

    I am talking about 30-35 years ago, and DOMESTIC activities then... so it is the "now" that I dispute in the above quote...

    Fair enough. I didn't know about it then, but it would have worried me then had I known about it.



  • The real question is why we're allowed to spend more and more money that we don't have.



  • @eViLegion said:

    I'm not talking about the politics that cause this to happen. I'm talking about it being the default option. Every other country in the world sees this as somewhere between baffling and absurd! I mean, Belgium didn't have a government for months a couple of years ago, but instead of shutting down everything ticked over smoothly until they did have one again.



    Why is your government so weird?

    The U.S. Consitiution requires that all spending by the government must be approved by Congress. So politicians occasionaly abuse this in an attempt to get things that they want -- "If you don't give me xxx or yyy then I won't vote to approve a new budget".

    There are things about other countires that I find equally baffling and absurd. Like "Belgium didn't have a government for months". WTF? You elected people, therefore you have a government. If they leave office for some reason, you replace them. To "not have a government" makes no sense to me.

    Also the apparent ability in many countries to call for elections whenever they want rather than on specific dates.




  • Also interesting to note, far from being "unprecedented," this is the 18th shutdown since 1976. Usually, a compromise is made. It will be interesting to see how Obama and Reid manage this after saying they will not negotiate, the Republicans are terrorists, etc. A lot of people expect the Republicans in the House to cave, like they usually do, but I suspect they'll hold out for some sort of compromise.

    A lot probably depends on how it gets spun in the media, of course. The House have been looking to fund various parts of the government with separate bills (like was already done and signed for the military...which the NSA is part of, BTW). This seems like something that should be done all the time, since it makes it a little more difficult to sneak nonsense into the omnibus bill. No doubt, that's one reason why it will never happen.



  • @Sutherlands said:

    The real question is why we're allowed to spend more and more money that we don't have.

    Because the rest of the world sucks badly enough that there is still a fair amount of demand for our debt (which is mostly owned domestically, but still). Plus, the Fed. Also, Alien Invasion!



  • @El_Heffe said:

    There are things about other countires that I find equally baffling and absurd. Like "Belgium didn't have a government for months". WTF? You elected people, therefore you have a government. If they leave office for some reason, you replace them. To "not have a government" makes no sense to me.

    Yeah, parliamentary systems are weird, and should be avoided.



  • @boomzilla said:

    Does your government have to follow the law? The law said, "here's a budget for the next year or so." And then when that year passes, there is no authority (for many things) to spend any more money.
    This situation is almost impossible to happen in Europe, because they're parliamentary democracies as opposed to the presidential democracy that the USA has. The government (almost) always has a majority in parliament, because it's parliament that formally approves the new government after elections. There are differences (the British and some of the former colonies use the Westminster system, where a government minister must be a member of parliament, whereas in others they cannot be part of both the executive and the legislative), but with the notable exceptions of France and Russia, presidents (or monarchs) usually have very limited constitutional power, and can certainly not veto legislation.

    On the one hand, this may lead to more frequent elections than once every four or five years, if the government relies on an instable coalition. On the other hand, such a deadlock as the USA experiences is practically impossible. Practically, because the Netherlands are facing the issue that the governing parties have a majority in the lower chamber of parliament (roughly comparable to the House), but not in the upper chamber (roughly comparable to the Senate). So now they're doing horse-trading with certain parts of the opposition.

     



  • @El_Heffe said:

    There are things about other countires that I find equally baffling and absurd. Like "Belgium didn't have a government for months". WTF? You elected people, therefore you have a government. If they leave office for some reason, you replace them. To "not have a government" makes no sense to me.

    Belgium did have a government, but it was the government of the last elections. No doubt the current government will stay on for a long time after the next elections, but it's to be hoped that it will take less time than the 541 days (!!!) it took for this government to be formed.

    Yes, almost a year and a half. It's an absolute world record. To understand why this absurd situation was allowed to take place, you have to understand Belgian politics, and it's generally acknowledged that understanding the universe is considerably easier.

    @El_Heffe said:

    Also the apparent ability in many countries to call for elections whenever they want rather than on specific dates.
    That's mostly in Britain and former British colonies (Australia, Malta, etc). In other countries, they fulfil their terms, or there are premature elections if the government loses support in parlliament.

     


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @boomzilla said:

    The law said, "here's a budget for the next year or so." And then when that year passes, there is no authority (for many things) to spend any more money. Some programs (like Social Security and benefits for military veterans) are more or less perpetually funded (though not necessarily all of the supporting bureaucracy for those things).
    The (US) Debt Limit Explained (CP Grey for those who know of him/have already seen it.)



  • @boomzilla said:

    I'm fine with them spying on the rest of the world.
    So you, presumably as an American, don't trust anyone but Americans? I, for one as a European, take issue with that. Why should any European country waste tax euros on extracting and analysing metadata out of everyones online communications? What happened to innocent until proven guilty? The will of the people (as opposed to the powers that be)? Or FFS equal rights?! Your article 1 of the universal declaration of human rights is the same as my article 1.


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    @koek said:

    So you, presumably as an American, don't trust anyone but Americans?

    I don't trust anyone who isn't me.



  • Part of understanding the problem is the discrepency in how the term "government" is used.


    In Europe (and most parliamentary systems), "government" means the coalition of politicians who won the last election and are in power. In the US, we call that the "administration" for the executive branch, and the "majority leaders" for the legislative branch.


    In the US, "government" refers to the entire operational buceauracy that encompasses civil services. We use the term broadly to encompass everything from the national, provincial, and municipal level. We never use the term "government" to refer to the ruling coalition.


    So in this case, a government shutdown means they've stopped writing checks for civil services. Belgiums lack of a government means they haven't had sufficient coalition amongst the politicians vying for control to form a majority block. Completely different uses of the word government.



  • Quoting myself... always a bad sign...

    @Severity One said:

    On the other hand, such a deadlock as the USA experiences is practically impossible. Practically, because the Netherlands are facing the issue that the governing parties have a majority in the lower chamber of parliament (roughly comparable to the House), but not in the upper chamber (roughly comparable to the Senate). So now they're doing horse-trading with certain parts of the opposition.

    And you might find this ironic: they don't have enough support for the budget cuts they're proposing. The current government is a coalition of conservative liberals ("liberal" in the European sense of the word, not the American; centre-right) and social democrats (centre-left).

     


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    @Severity One said:

    "liberal" in the European sense of the word, not the American

    I have trouble grasping what denizens of other countries mean when they use the same adjectives we do to mean different things.



  • @koek said:

    @boomzilla said:
    I'm fine with them spying on the rest of the world.
    So you, presumably as an American, don't trust anyone but Americans?

    I'm never sure how to respond to non sequiturs. How about, "Purple bunny rabbits aren't impossible, just impractical."

    @koek said:

    I, for one as a European, take issue with that. Why should any European country waste tax euros on extracting and analysing metadata out of everyones online communications?

    I have no idea why this is relevant.

    @koek said:

    What happened to innocent until proven guilty?

    Nothing?

    @koek said:

    Your article 1 of the universal declaration of human rights is the same as my article 1.

    WTF are you talking about? Are you an account for Ben L.'s new markov chain program?



  • @joe.edwards said:

    @Severity One said:
    "liberal" in the European sense of the word, not the American

    I have trouble grasping what denizens of other countries mean when they use the same adjectives we do to mean different things.

    Statists have learned that accurate descriptions of their ideas and values are bad for them. They ruined "progressive" nearly a hundred years ago. I guess enough time has passed that they can reuse that one, especially since their Orwellian appropriation of the term "liberal" has largely reached its end.


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @joe.edwards said:

    @Severity One said:
    "liberal" in the European sense of the word, not the American

    I have trouble grasping what denizens of other countries mean when they use the same adjectives we do to mean different things.
    What about nouns? Like Public schools.


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    @PJH said:

    @joe.edwards said:
    @Severity One said:
    "liberal" in the European sense of the word, not the American

    I have trouble grasping what denizens of other countries mean when they use the same adjectives we do to mean different things.
    What about nouns? Like Public schools.

    Now you're just fucking with me.


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @StephenCleary said:

    @eViLegion said:
    I'm not talking about the politics that cause this to happen. I'm talking about it being the default option.

    You can't really separate those. It's the default option purely for political reasons. :)

    The funny thing is, I used to work in government archives (before programming), and I have just a tiny inkling of the massive amounts of money that our government wastes every day on absolute crap. Whenever a "government shutdown" happens, the person-wanting-more-money (who is always the current person-in-power) makes sure to shut down the parts of the government that people will notice - so things like the national parks are first on the cutting block.

    But that's completely unnecessary. There are countless[1] things our government is constantly doing that no one would (immediately) notice if they were cut, yet they continue right along during a "shutdown".

    -Steve

    [1] OK, it's not actually countless. I strongly suspect (but have not proved) that it's aleph-null. :)

    The fact that there is so much waste--while troglodytes like Nancy Pelosi claim there's nothing left to cut--is why so many people have a hard time getting worked up about this slimdown. You are wasting tons of money already, and borrowing a trillion dollars a year to do it, but you can't find something to cut?

    Most of the federal government employees should be fired with prejudice, and start over from scratch.


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    @FrostCat said:

    Most of the federal government employees should be fired with prejudice, and start over from scratch.

    I'm sure suddenly firing millions of Americans won't have any deleterious impact on our economy. Nope, none whatsoever.





  • @koek said:

    Moreover, why is the NSA exempt? They've been unable to find the one nefarious guy with a pressure cooker in time, so no harm done if they go home for a while.


    Dear Mr. Senator: if you shut down the NSA, we'll reveal the phone records we've been keeping on you. There are some suspicious calls to a woman named "Bambi" I'm sure you wouldn't want public.


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @FrostCat said:

    The fact that there is so much waste--while troglodytes like Nancy Pelosi claim there's nothing left to cut--is why so many people have a hard time getting worked up about this slimdown. You are wasting tons of money already, and borrowing a trillion dollars a year to do it, but you can't find something to cut?

    If you want to make a real impact, you've got to cut the major outlays as well as the small stuff. Cutting those sorts of things always makes quite a lot of people very unhappy, way beyond the general grumpiness of everyone paying their taxes.
    @FrostCat said:
    Most of the federal government employees should be fired with prejudice, and start over from scratch.
    Quite a substantial proportion of the Fed employees are the military; firing lots of them at once is unlikely to end well. Failing to pay the army has been the downfall of many a government in many countries over the past few thousand years; there's no reason to expect things to be any different this time either. Assuming that people with guns — and training in how to use them properly in a group — will just sit there and take it up the ass from a bunch of plutocrats who only seek to enrich themselves… well, that would be TRWTF.

    Or maybe you'll pull the rug out from under a whole bunch of other stuff that you rely on without knowing it. From my perspective, it doesn't matter nearly so much: I'm on another continent, and from here it looks like one of those awesome slow motion car crashes you see in some movies.



  • @FrostCat said:

    The fact that there is so much waste--while troglodytes like Nancy Pelosi claim there's nothing left to cut--is why so many people have a hard time getting worked up about this slimdown. You are wasting tons of money already, and borrowing a trillion dollars a year to do it, but you can't find something to cut?

    Most of the federal government employees should be fired with prejudice, and start over from scratch.

    In our (Minneapolis) paper today: The federal government lent a sugar processor (Crystal Sugar) a huge amount of money during the downturn to keep them from closing. To repay that loan, the sugar company repaid the government with $25 million dollars of SUGAR which they then turned around and sold to a ethanol producer for $5 million. This is YOUR GOVERNMENT losing $20 million in a matter of a few hours. [http://www.startribune.com/business/226011811.html]

    Quote: Crystal Sugar had borrowed $71,790,000 from the USDA in fiscal 2013 to run its sugar processing plants, putting up 300 million pounds of sugar as collateral. Before Tuesday’s forfeiture, the co-op sold the USDA 105 million pounds of beet sugar for more than $25 million. The government immediately resold that sugar to biofuel producers for about $5 million, a $20 million loss to the government.

    Quote: Crystal Sugar’s decision came a day after the government announced that it had lost $53.3 million buying sugar from companies across the country and selling it to biofuel producers. The $53.3 million loss was considered necessary to limit the amount of sugar borrowers would use to pay back loans.

    I can't possibly see how this would lead to a budget overrun...



  • @boomzilla said:

    @joe.edwards said:
    @Severity One said:
    "liberal" in the European sense of the word, not the American

    I have trouble grasping what denizens of other countries mean when they use the same adjectives we do to mean different things.

    Statists have learned that accurate descriptions of their ideas and values are bad for them. They ruined "progressive" nearly a hundred years ago. I guess enough time has passed that they can reuse that one, especially since their Orwellian appropriation of the term "liberal" has largely reached its end.

    I'm not sure exactly what you're implying, but terms like "progressive", "conservative" or "freedomist" (aka liberal) are always going to be ambiguous. "I want freedom": sure, but what freedom? Personal freedom, economic freedom? Freedom from a government, or freedom from people who are not the government? If you are a "conservative", what do you want to conserve: money, traditions, laws? Etc.



  • @anonymous235 said:

    I'm not sure exactly what you're implying

    I was saying that the American Left are a bunch of Orwellian assholes who are attempting to impose totalitarianism in America with a smiley face in part by hiding what they are in cutesy labels. I hope this is clear enough for you.

    @anonymous235 said:

    I want freedom": sure, but what freedom? Personal freedom, economic freedom? Freedom from a government, or freedom from people who are not the government?

    I'm not sure what "freedom from people..." means, but the others are reasonable things. There are a few exceptions, but in general and on balance, the American Left is anti-freedom. The American Right pro-freedom on balance, but has a fair amount of anti-freedom tendencies, too. I'm not sure of a significant political party in other parts of the world that is even as tepidly pro-freedom as the Republican party (which is only most, but not all of the American Right).



  • @joe.edwards said:

    @Severity One said:
    "liberal" in the European sense of the word, not the American

    I have trouble grasping what denizens of other countries mean when they use the same adjectives we do to mean different things.
    Put it this way. Consider the political spectrum as a 2D graph, with left-wing (big government, large government influence in the economy) and right wing (small government, free market) on the X-axis, and progressive (for example, gay marriage) and conservative on the Y-axis.

    The conservative liberal party, which currently is the largest party in Dutch parliament, is the most economically right-wing of all parties (X-axis), and slightly conservative when it comes to social issues (Y-axis). Having said that, they were in favour of gay marriage, but have been accused of squandering their liberal roots (their name translates to "Popular party for freedom and democracy") with issues like harsher punishments for criminals, support for extended powers for the police and security services to spy on the population, etc.

    Essentially, it's a secular (not influenced by any holy books) free market party.


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    @boomzilla said:

    I'm not sure what "freedom from people..." means, but the others are reasonable things. There are a few exceptions, but in general and on balance, the American Left is anti-freedom. The American Right pro-freedom on balance, but has a fair amount of anti-freedom tendencies, too. I'm not sure of a significant political party in other parts of the world that is even as tepidly pro-freedom as the Republican party (which is only most, but not all of the American Right).

    For our amusement, would you describe what your hypothetical ideal political party would look like? What kinds of things would it advocate [please be more specific than "more/less government"], what policies might it support, where would its budget be focused?



  • @joe.edwards said:

    @russ0519 said:
    I think it's ridiculous that the congressmen/senators are getting paid while they have caused a shutdown. They should not get paid as an incentive for them not to pull shit like this.

    Yeah! We should pass legislation that stops them from getting paid. I'm sure it will have no problem getting through the system.
    Comically? enough, it's actually against the 27th Amendment to the Constitution of the US to withhold their pay - the amendment actually makes it illegal to change a sitting Congressperson's pay during that session of Congress, but it has the unintended effect of guaranteeing them pay while the Government is shut down. It was actually proposed with the Bill of Rights in 1789 but not enacted until 1992 when enough states finally ratified it to become law.


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