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What happened behind the scenes of U.S. gov`t shutdown

Posted October. 03, 2013 00:16,   


Some 800,000 to one million U.S. federal employees have been furloughed. Over 90 percent of the 94,000 employees of the Internal Revenue Service and 97 percent of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have been furloughed. Yellowstone and other national parks across the U.S. have been closed. It is the 18th time that the U.S. federal government is shut down. If U.S. Congress fails to approve the budget for a new fiscal year which begins on October 1 each year, the federal government has no choice but to be shut down.

The legal ground for the government shutdown is Article 1 Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution, which states, "No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law..." As the federal government cannot pay its employees, it has no choice but to shut down. During the Jimmy Cater presidency, the U.S. federal government was shut down five times, as Congress insisted on continuing the ban on using Medicaid budget to pay for abortions. During the Ronal Reagan administration, the federal government stopped operating eight times due to the opposition Democratic Party, which controlled the House of Representatives. When the Republican Party controlled both chambers of Congress during the Clinton administration, the federal government remained shut down for 21 days from December 15, 1995, the longest closure ever.

As the federal government was shut down frequently, it furloughed its employees first and then gave back pay for them. Such practices ended after Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti in 1981 put a brake on them, citing Article 1 Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution. The constitution`s stipulation reflects the spirit not only of strict control on government budget spending but also of checks and balances between the two chambers and the legislature and the president.

In Korea, if the National Assembly fails to pass a budget proposal, the constitution allows the administration to still draw up its budget based on the previous year`s budget. It means that there will never be a central government shutdown in Korea. However, such a situation has never occurred in the country. Despite all the political wrangling over budget proposals, political parties have often passed budget bills just before deadlines. Maybe, U.S. lawmakers should learn from their Korean peers at least when it comes to budget bills.

Editorial Writer Choi Yeong-hae (yhchoi65@donga.com)