My brother pays closer attention to politics than I do, especially when he’s directly affected – he and his wife are both out of work today due to the government shutdown. I thought his summary of the whole stinking mess was dead on. Reposted with permission:

So.
A bill proposing a sweeping change to law passes both houses of Congress, and is signed by the President. So it becomes a law. (Though it must be noted that the original intent of the bill was to be even MORE widespread, before compromises weakened its impact.)

The law later survives 46 attempts by one house of Congress to repeal it, in full or in part.

The law’s constitutionality is challenged in court, and the challenges go all the way up to the Supreme Court, which deems that it is, indeed, constitutional.

And because certain members of a certain political party, said party currently having control of a certain house of Congress, still don’t like the law, they threaten to not fund the government unless the other house of Congress and the President acquiesce to their demands to nullify the law in question.

This is threatened, despite the clear and present knowledge that a government shutdown will kick a hole in the barely-recovering economy.

That party, in that house of Congress is cheered on in its actions–even cajoled into those actions–by a handful of members of the same party who serve in the OTHER house of Congress.

Those members are the same ones who, in the months prior to the deadline for this threat, have blocked the controlling party of that other house of Congress is blocked from naming people to send to a joint congressional budget conference so that something can be hammered out. These members block that other house of Congress from naming conferees not once, not twice, nor even thrice, but EIGHTEEN times.

The first, intransigent, house of Congress, still seeking to defund the nation’s government unless the law it does not like is stripped from the budget, makes a request for a joint congressional budget conference–the same sort of conference blocked so many times before by its allies in the other house of Congress–with less than twenty minutes to go before the deadline to fund the government.

Then, stymied because its demands to nullify the law of the land are not met, the members controlling this house of Congress accuse the other political party and the President of an intransigent refusal to negotiate.

All of this comes after several budget fights and several debt limit fights where the minority party threatens and wheedles until the other house, desperate to keep the nation going, caves in to demands to cut funding to any number of things already approved by Congress.
And all of this precedes what shakes down to be another deadline leading to possible shutdown of the government two and a half weeks from now.