How long the shutdown will last -- probably the first question on many Americans' minds this morning -- depends on Congress reaching agreement on a government-funding bill. In other words, the same roadblock that began the shutdown in the first place. But now that the shutdown is under way, a happy resolution for Republicans only becomes less likely.
A reminder of how we got here. The House, acting at the behest of its conservative Republican core, sent the Senate three slightly varied versions of the same proposal: give up part of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) in exchange for funding the government. The Senate rejected the idea each time.
On Monday night, the House suggested a conference between the two chambers, apparently hoping for a compromise. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's response encapsulates the moment: He rejected the idea, saying that Senate Democrats "will not go to conference with a gun to our head." Pass a short-term funding bill and reopen government, he suggested, and the Senate would talk about a longer-term agreement. Sure enough, the Senate on Tuesday morning voted on party lines against going to conference.