Government shutdown trickles down to UM

Posted on Oct 2 2013 - 6:47am by Katelyn Miller
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The federal government officially shut down Oct. 1, the first day of the country’s fiscal year, causing nonessential federal services to be put on hold until Congress passes the annual national spending bill.

Although state funding regulates nearly all of The University of Mississippi’s operations, some students are feeling the impact of the shutdown directly.

Senior biochemistry major Nicholas Boullard, who works as a research assistant for the university, will face potentially long-term interruptions to his experiments.

“I’m quantifying the products of nitric oxide from endothelial cell growth medium,” Boullard said. “To get a more accurate reading, I need to use some of the equipment in the National Products Research Center, which I currently cannot do until the government resumes function.”

The National Center for Natural Products Research on campus is just one of many offices affected by the shutdown. At least 68 government agencies and programs nationwide are currently closed or partially closed.

“Compared to the other research projects going on in the center, this holdup is nothing,” Boullard said of his project. “Especially when you factor in the knowledge that several of the experiments are long-running, time-sensitive endeavors.”

Boullard considers himself fortunate that he was able to freeze his growth medium until he has access to the NCNPR, whereas many researchers were not so lucky.

The shutdown is expected to be short-lived, as a government shutdown has never lasted longer than 21 days.

However, the resumed function of the federal government depends on what many, including President Obama, consider to be an ideological battle.

The spending bill, which must be passed at the beginning of each fiscal year, has been passed back and forth between the two congressional branches over one main point of contention: the Affordable Care Act and the 2.3 percent tax it would levy on medical supplies.

The House aims to push the ACA back a full year and abolish the tax, whereas the Senate refuses to pass a bill with any changes made to the current ACA provisions. As a matter of legislative fact, the key parts of the ACA are funded by mandatory spending that will remain unaffected by the spending bill.

President Barack Obama called the gridlock a “Republican shutdown” in his statement on Tuesday.

“Republicans in the House of Representatives refused to fund the government unless we defunded or dismantled the Affordable Care Act” Obama said. “In other words, they demanded ransom just for doing their job.”

Analysts expect at least 800,000 of the roughly 3.3 million federal employees to go unpaid for an unknown duration.

While in the past, furloughed workers have sometimes been paid retroactively, that is solely at the discretion of members of Congress. Since the law forbids Congress from legislating its own pay, the senators and representatives responsible for the gridlock will continue to receive paychecks.

The only way the shutdown can be ended is by the passage of a mutually agreed-upon spending bill, which would then have to be signed by the president. One of the simplest ways to achieve this is for the House and Senate to have a direct conference, rather than simply passing the spending bill back and forth between themselves.

As of 10 p.m. Tuesday, Congress still had not come to an agreement to end the shutdown.