Without a spending bill from Congress, the government has been forced to shut down "non-essential operations."
Millions of workers are being furloughed, loans are not being processed, Social Security checks are not being mailed.
In the last two years we've seen a few shutdown threats only to be saved by a compromise at the last minute. This time is different.
The previous near-shutdowns started in a different place. Republicans were demanding spending cuts and entitlement reforms, while Democrats sought revenue increases and protection of popular social programs such as Medicare and Social Security.
The two sides seemed far apart, but Republicans did not put out specifics on what they wanted cut. This allowed Democrats to propose some spending cuts with some revenue. The negotiations went from there until a compromise was reached.
This time Republicans were specific — defund the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare, or face government shutdown. This left no negotiating room for Democrats, who under no circumstances would dismantle this administration's signature legislative accomplishment.
In addition, Republicans in the House of Representatives seemed eager to push the government into shutdown. In the first few shutdown crises, Republicans said they were holding the establishment's feet to the fire to bring down the deficit. Many rightly cheered these efforts, and it worked. The yearly deficit has been slashed in half and it is projected to continue to fall as the economy grows.
Without the deficit cause to rally around, Republicans have seized on Obamacare as the reason to force a government shutdown. This change in focus from deficit — a budgetary concern — to health care reform should cause everyone, not just liberals or Democrats, some pause.
The Affordable Care Act itself is far from perfect. It is a health care reform first proposed by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, in the 1990s and used by Mitt Romney to overhaul the health care system in Massachusetts. It was used as the foundation for Obamacare, which was passed by both Congressional chambers, signed by the president, who was recently re-elected, and upheld by the Supreme Court.
Now, in exchange for funding government operations, Republicans are trying to defund the implementation of this law.
Imagine the opposite scenario: A Republican president signs a historic piece of conservative legislation that is later upheld by the Supreme Court, but Democrats hate it. They hate it so much they threaten to shut down the government until the president undoes that law. Would you want him or her to cave in to such a demand? If not, then you should hope Republicans do not get their way this time.
In Washington, as in a court room, they run on precedent. If it works once, it will be tried again, and again, and again. And next time the target might not be something you hate, but something you wholeheartedly support.
Our government was set up to work in a specific way. If your party is elected to the majority it can pass laws. Those laws need the support of the President and finally must survive a review by the Supreme Court.
What Republicans are trying to do is break this system. They could not convince voters in the last election to support them so they could dismantle Obamacare. Instead they are pushing ahead with a strategy that would render our court and election system moot.
As Americans we should be against that.