Good morning, and welcome to the new week. And what a week it's going to be! Pundits and even some politicians are talking as if an Oct. 1 government shutdown is inevitable. The state health insurance exchanges are scheduled to open tomorrow as well. Any glitches in the online sign-up process are sure to be overshadowed by the charades in Washington, the focus of today's reads.

When the going gets tough, the Senate leaves town

Early Sunday morning, the House passed a bill to fund the federal government until Dec. 15 and delay Obamacare for a year. The Senate isn't scheduled to convene until 2 p.m. today, hours before the midnight deadline. Republicans are trying to minimize the shutdown narrative, but some Democratic leaders are talking as if it's a reality, according to Bloomberg News. Time is running out, and the two sides are still talking at, not to, one another. The Washington Post provides a nice recap of the negotiations in graphic form, compares the current situation to the 1995-1996 shutdown and evaluates what's at stake for the GOP.

Sayonara, Tea Party?

Budget guru Stan Collender wonders if a government shutdown could mark the beginning of the end for the Tea Party. He even admits to "wishful thinking" on the subject. A shutdown could alienate independents. Heck, these antics are alienating some GOP loyalists. Collender says a shutdown this week could temper Tea Party support, which "will never be as great again as it seems to be at this moment."

How will the shutdown affect me?

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire blog gives us the rundown. Essential services, such as air traffic control, will be maintained. The postal service will function as normal, whatever that is. Social security checks will go out. And yes, you will still be able to get the weather forecast, which someone deems essential to something.


What does a shutdown mean for the financial markets?
Not nearly as much as a default on its debt would, once the government's borrowing authority runs out, as it's expected to, sometime in mid-October. The New York Times' Dealbook reports that some strategists say the outcome of the shutdown debate will set the stage for negotiations over the debt ceiling. A majority of Americans (61 percent) actually want spending cuts to be part of any debt-ceiling increase, according to a recent Bloomberg poll.

How will the Affordable Care Act affect me?

The Wall Street Journal explains what the Oct. 1 rollout of the exchanges means if you have coverage through your employer (probably nothing), Medicare (nothing), or buy insurance on your own (more choices, and maybe a subsidy). There's a neat graphic linked to the article that lets you click on a state and see the number of uninsured residents, whether the exchange is run by the state or federal government, and which states plan to expand Medicaid.

(Caroline Baum is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow her on Twitter.)