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Explore our coverage of government and politics.

State Braces For Federal Shutdown

While Social Security, Medicare and Veterans benefits aren’t expected to be affected, it’s likely there will be delays processing new applications for these programs.  And several thousand non essential civilian workers who are employed by the Defense Department in Vermont will be temporarily laid off.

Administration Secretary Jeb Spaulding says the state will try to backfill funds for a number of federal human service programs but he says the state doesn’t have that flexibility with the Food Stamp program.

But if it goes on for, not a few days, but a few weeks we have got some serious issues here - Administration Secretary Jeb Spaulding

“While we do some of the eligibility determination here in the state they pay the benefits we don’t have the ability to do it,” said Spaulding. “So that’s pretty serious.”

And Spaulding has some major concerns if the shutdown lasts more than a few days.

Some of the benefit programs we can cover over a short term shutdown,” said Spaulding. “But if it goes on for not a few days but a few weeks we’ve got some serious issues here.”

Senator Bernie Sanders is accusing House Republicans of trying to sabotage the Affordable Care Act by insisting that any federal budget plan include a one year delay of the President’s health care plan. Sanders says the Senate should never give in to this type of “blackmail.”

“Because today it’s the Affordable Care Act tomorrow next year it could be unless you are prepared to privatize Social Security we are going to shut the government down, we’re not going to pay what we owe,” said Sanders. “So I think once you start succumbing to that type of blackmail you set a very bad precedent for future Congresses and future presidents.”

Congressman Peter Welch says it’s unfortunate that a relatively small group of conservative Republicans is still fighting to defeat the Affordable Care Act.

“At a certain point those of us in politics have to accept the Supreme Court, the vote of the Congress, and the decision of the American people and like let’s get on with it,” said Welch.

Retired Middlebury College political science professor Eric Davis says the shutdown will further erode the public’s already low confidence in Congress.

“What we’ve seen I would say really since the 2012 election if not before that is complete gridlock and inability to legislate,” said Davis. “And it’s damaging for not just the economy but it’s damaging for government programs, it’s damaging for public confidence in government.”

Davis says there are serious economic consequences if the fight spills over to an effort to extend the nation’s debt ceiling in the middle of October because the country has never defaulted on its financial obligations.

Bob Kinzel has been covering the Vermont Statehouse since 1981 — longer than any continuously serving member of the Legislature. With his wealth of institutional knowledge, he answers your questions on our series, "Ask Bob."
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