(WASHINGTON) -- The federal government is careening even closer to the first shutdown in 17 years, with time running short — and the inclination to find compromise almost non-existent. Here's a look at five looming questions in the shutdown showdown:
1. So what's next?
2. What happens to the House bill that was overwhelmingly approved by Republicans in a post-midnight vote?
It dies a very expected and quick death in the Democratic-controlled Senate. There's little interest in a prolonged fight — even among most Senate Republicans — so the measure will be "tabled" or set aside. Then, the bill goes right back to Square One in the House, where Speaker John Boehner again must decide whether to hold firm and protest President Obama's health care law or go against the wishes of many hard-liners in his party and pass an emergency spending bill with the support of Democrats.
3. At this point, is a shutdown guaranteed?
Nothing in Washington is certain, but yes, a shutdown is almost assured if both sides continue on their current path. Most lawmakers across the Capitol — including those who said only a few days ago they didn’t think it was likely — now believe a short-term shutdown is nearly certain. The bigger question is not whether the government will have a partial shutdown, but for how long? A short-term shutdown is the most likely outcome, perhaps a matter of hours or days.
4. How does this impact the next fiscal fight, when the nation's borrowing limit must be raised by Oct. 17 to avoid default?
That's the most worrisome question of all to leaders across Washington. The optimistic scenario is that this latest bruising episode of fighting — Republican v. Republican and House v. Senate — may have let out enough steam to satisfy conservative activists. That could give Boehner a stronger hand to play among his fellow Republicans when he asks for their help to keep the country from default. But that is very much an open question. And the debt limit fight has far deeper economic consequences.
5. Will you notice a government shutdown?
Yes, particularly if it lasts a few days or more. If you're one of the 800,000 federal workers who are deemed as non-essential, you will be directly affected immediately and not report to work. But the implications go well beyond Washington. If you're applying for a passport or visa, you will likely be out of luck. First-time home buyers looking for a mortgage will be delayed because the Federal Housing Administration will be closed. And the 401 national parks will be off-limits starting Tuesday morning. The biggest fear for hundreds of thousands of federal workers — and members of the military — will be if they receive back pay. In the last shutdown nearly two decades ago, workers received lost wages. That's not guaranteed this time. And why everyone should care: a shutdown will cost, not save, taxpayers' money. A study from the Office of Management and Budget puts the overall economic price tag for a shutdown around $2 billion.
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