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Last U.S. government shutdown was under Bill Clinton in 1995


U.S. House Speaker John Boehner on Capitol Hill last Saturday. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

If the U.S. Republicans and Democrats can't get their collective acts together and pass a new bill authorizing spending by midnight tonight, the big American machine will come to a halt.

The clock is ticking for Congress and it is not looking good. The ongoing feud over Obamacare between the Republicans who believe U.S. President Barack Obama's heath care legislation is akin to a socialist plot and the Democrats now threatens to stop all discretionary spending in Washington.

Essentially, House Speaker John Boehner and his Republicans are trying to gut Obamacare funding and delay it's implementation for one year.

"This law is not ready for prime time," said Boehner in defense of the Republican position, reported Agence France-Presse. Meanwhile, the Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid insisted: "The American people will not be extorted by Tea Party anarchists."

If a spending bill does not pass, 38 per cent of the federal budget will be stymied, reports the New York Times. Millions of "non-essential" American civil servants - everyone from pesticide regulators to food inspectors and NASA employees - will be told to stay home as Uncle Sam won't be able to pay them.

But not every public servant gets the day off - money printers, secret service agents and air traffic controllers are being ordered to work.

The Statue of Liberty will also be closed along with every single national park. No federal gun permits will be issued.

And by Oct. 17, the Times notes that America will pretty much run out of money. Economists are warning the fragile U.S. economy could see a 1.4 per cent drop in growth if a shutdown happens.

This is not the first time the U.S. government has faced a sudden closure. The last was in the fall of 1995 and the winter of 1996 when then President Bill Clinton fought with the Republican-controlled Congress. At the time, spending on medicare was at issue.

While that impasse took Americans by complete surprise, it didn't torpedo any political careers or cause an economic catastrophe, reports the Pew Research Center, a non-partisan fact tank.

House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s favorable ratings were already dipping in the months leading up to the shutdown. But his ratings went from mixed in January 1995 to heavily negative by early November - 57% had an unfavorable view of Gingrich, Pew reports.

Meanwhile, Clinton's popularity stayed virtually the same - in late 1994, 41 per cent approved of the job he was doing and by October, 1995, his numbers increased to 48 per cent. 

Tanya Talaga is the Star's global economics reporter. Follow her on Twitter @tanyatalaga




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