Provided that it does not last much longer, the government shutdown that occurred Tuesday when Congress failed to agree on a federal budget bill will have little impact on Boston University programs, according to university officials.
“The federal government has issued some information on student aid, for instance,” said BU spokesman Colin Riley. “Essentially, they feel the impact is going to be minimal.”
Programs that use multi-year appropriations or mandatory funding, such as Federal Pell Grants and student loans, will continue to operate through the shutdown, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s official contingency plan.
“Obligations and payments from these programs may continue, dependent on the length of the lapse,” the plan stated. “Only those grant activities which, if not continued, would prevent or significantly damage the execution of funded functions … will continue on a limited basis after a lapse of one week and continue through a short-term shutdown.”
A shutdown lasting more than one week will have more noticeable effects on educational institutions, the plan stated.
“A protracted delay in department obligations and payments beyond one week would severely curtail the cash flow to school districts, colleges and universities, and vocational rehabilitation agencies that depend on the department’s funds to support their services,” the plan stated.
Political science professor and chair Graham Wilson said the effects of the shutdown on BU students, as well as citizens of Boston, are unknown at this point.
“The short answer is: nobody knows,” Wilson said. “We know some of the obvious things, like if you wanted to visit the U.S.S. Constitution today, you’d be out of luck because the federal parks are closed.”
The extent of the shutdown depends on how far Republicans in Congress are willing to go to prevent Obamacare from coming into effect, Wilson said.
“This is another milestone in the decay of the workings of our system of government,” Wilson said. “That decay is partially due to extreme partisanship, and I’d have to say that extreme partisanship is currently coming from the right wing.”
Political science professor Douglas Kriner said the current government shutdown is unprecedented because unlike the shutdown under President Bill Clinton 17 years ago, the shutdown is in response to the Affordable Care Act and not solely an issue of the federal budget.
“The only way to stop Obamacare from being fully implemented into law is to hold the budget and the debt ceiling hostage for it,” Kriner said.
BU may stop receiving federal research funding, Kriner said, if the shutdown lasts much longer.
“If you’re in the sciences at a university, I think that a lot of the NSF [National Science Foundation] and other types of federal resources are temporarily down,” he said. “The EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] is laying off people, so if you rely on them for data and other sources of information, you’re not going to be able to get it.”
Republicans are mainly opposed to Obamacare because it will be expensive for the federal government, Kriner said.
“The administration argues that, according to its projection, in the long run, it [Obamacare] will save money, but those projections are inherently unreliable so there’s a cost issue,” he said. “On the other hand, a lot of ‘Tea Partiers’ say that the individual mandate forcing you to buy coverage is an infringement on personal liberties and freedoms.”
Under our current government system, the only way Republicans can change the healthcare situation is to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Kriner said.
“The fact is, it [Obamacare] is the law of the land,” Kriner said. “There’s no way for them to use the constitutional methods provided to undo it.”