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Government Shutdown of 2013

Political Impasse Over Obamacare Fueled By Tea Party Conservatives


Republican U.S. Rep. John Boehner

Republican U.S. Rep. John Boehner came under fire for not having control over his party during the government shutdown of 2013.

Mark Wilson/Getty Images News

The government shutdown of 2013 began on Oct. 1 of that year after a group of Republicans in the House of Representatives revolted against funding the federal government's operations without first defunding or delaying President Barack Obama's signature accomplishment, the health care reform law of 2010 known as Obamacare.

The government shutdown of 2013 last 16 days and was the 18th since 1976 and the first since early 1996, when Bill Clinton was president. The government shutdown of 2013 ended on Thursday, Oct. 17.

Related Story: List of Government Shutdowns in U.S. History

The efforts to delay or defund Obamacare, fueled by a group of some 30 to 40 conservative House Republicans, were symbolic because they stood no chance of passage in either chamber and were opposed by Obama. The president argued forcefully that Americans had re-elected him in 2012 based on the passage of the law. The U.S. Supreme Court also upheld the law that year.

Related Story: Government Shutdown Every 2 Years: Why Congress Is More Unpopular Than Satan

The government shutdown of 2013 exposed deep divisions in a Republican Party that was becoming increasingly fractured between the Tea Party conservatives and more moderate members of the GOP, who had supported similar elements of health care proposals in the 1990s, including the controversial individual mandate.

House Speaker's Role in the 2013 Government Shutdown

The government shutdown also exposed House Speaker John Boehner's inability to bridge the divide within the Republican ranks. Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, would not allow the House to vote on a temporary spending measure known as a continuing resolution because he was said to be fearful of losing his speakership at the hands of those 30 to 40 conservatives.

It was widely believed that the continuing resolution funding government operations would have easily passed the House and averted a shutdown. But many observers believed Boehner gave in to a faction of his party's relentless attempts to undermine the health care law.

Others said Boehner was abiding by the so-called Hastert Rule, an unwritten policy of requiring any bill to have support from a "majority of the majority" before Republicans bring it to the floor for a vote. The Hastert Rule is named after Republican former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who disavowed the practice to the media at the height of the shutdown.

One Party Divided and Another United

While the Republicans were divided, House and Senate Democrats remained united and also dug in their heels, refusing to revisit the health care reform law that was passed by Congress and signed by the president in 2010.

Obama, a Democratic president who had just begun his second term that year, fumed about the shutdown on national television, saying: “I am exasperated with the idea that unless I say to 20 million people you can’t have health insurance, these folks will not reopen the government. That is irresponsible.”

Impact of the 2013 Government Shutdown

The government shutdown resulted in the furloughs of some 800,000 federal workers, the closing of national parks and the loss of funding for important health, education and nutrition programs for needy Americans.

What House Republicans Wanted

The government shutdown of 2013 has its roots in an issue that was unrelated to the budget: Obamacare. Momentum in the fight against implementation of the law began with a 21-hour speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate by Texas Republican and Tea Party favorite Ted Cruz.

House Republicans initially proposed a spending bill that would have delayed major portions of the health care reform law and repealed a tax on medical devices. The medical-device tax is expected to generate $30 billion over 10 years and help pay for the government subsidies that millions of poor Americans will receive to help buy health insurance.

But the Senate, controlled by Democrats who were united and unwilling to reopen the debate on Obamacare, refused to go along with the House proposals on delayed the implementation of the health care law.

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