U.S. Government Shutdown Goes Into Effect

by Samuel Abasi Posted on January 20th, 2018

Washington, D.C., USA: U.S. government shutdown went into effect shortly after midnight (as funding ran out), after the Senate defeated a House-passed stopgap spending measure with neither party giving significant ground on the issue that triggered the stalemate – how to replace the Obama-era program that allows certain undocumented immigrants who came to the United States illegally as children to work and go to school here. The last shutdown was in 2013 and lasted 17 days.

Senator Chuck Schumer blamed Trump for walking away from a deal on immigration during a meeting at the White House Friday afternoon, even though Schumer said he was willing to discuss the president’s top priority: the border wall.

“He walked away from two bipartisan deals, including one today in which I even put the border wall on the table. What will it take for President Trump to say yes and learn how to execute the rudiments of government?” Schumer said.

In the hours leading up to the shutdown, Democrats were still jockeying to get a DACA fix attached to the spending bill, according to multiple senators. Intertwining the two issues has been a non-starter for GOP leadership on both ends of the Capitol.

But Democrats wanted an insurance policy in case the bipartisan DACA legislation that McConnell promised to put on the Senate floor went nowhere in the House.

“They had concerns about if they pass a bill out of the Senate, will it be heard in the House,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn). “They would like for [DACA] to be attached to a must-pass piece of legislation.”

McConnell did not respond directly to Schumer’s call for a summit meeting, but said the Senate will reconvene at noon and that votes would be likely later in the day.

“It’s my hope that an agreement can be reached. We’ll be here in session tomorrow working to finally resolve the way forward,” he said.

House lawmakers were told that they should expect to reconvene at 9 a.m. on Saturday.

If the talks stretch into the weekend, the logistics will become more complicated as the House is scheduled to be on recess next week.

Republicans have insisted that Democrats agree to expanded authorities for border patrol agents along with construction of the wall, something Democrats have balked at so far.

Each federal agency has a shutdown plan, written in consultation with the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and the administration would have some wiggle room in what it does.

In spite of the shutdown, many major federal responsibilities, like sending Social Security checks and operating the military, would continue.

In general, government operations and employees deemed “essential,” would continue to report to work. It’s a label that applies to more than half of the 2.1 million or so non-postal federal employees. These include, but not limited to, food inspections, federal law enforcement, airport security checks, social Security, other federal benefit programs and military operations.

Those workers would still get paid, but not until after the shutdown ends.

During the 2013 shutdown, 850,000 individuals were furloughed per day, according to the OMB.

Employees in “non-essential” government functions, meanwhile, would stay home and actually be prohibited from showing up. Congress acted to pay those employees after previous shutdowns, but pay is not guaranteed.

Some government programs, such as Social Security payments, are not subject to the appropriations process. Those would continue, though some functions, like processing new Social Security applications, would shut down.

Health and Human Services HHS would have to put about half of its 82,000 staff on furlough.

Larger programs like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and disability insurance would be largely unaffected by a government shutdown, and current beneficiaries would continue to receive their benefits.

But processing new applications for these programs could slow because there would be fewer employees around to do them.

The National Institutes of Health would continue patient care for current cancer patients but would not admit new patients or accept new grant proposals.

“Visitors who come to our nation’s capital will find war memorials and open air parks open to the public. Nationally, many of our national parks, refuges and other public lands will still allow limited access wherever possible.” Interior Department spokeswoman Heather Swift said in a statement.

The government shutdown is not expected to delay flights or have an impact on the airline industry. Air traffic control, which is run by the Federal Aviation Administration, would still operate, while most of the agency’s aviation safety inspectors would keep working.

The FDA may have to cancel the majority of its food safety, nutrition and cosmetics activities, including routine food safety inspections. The CDC, meanwhile, would be unable to support its annual seasonal flu program during one of the most severe flu outbreaks in recent history and could stop tracking disease outbreaks.

The National Institutes of Health would continue patient care for current cancer patients but would not admit new patients or accept new grant proposals.

Military personnel are expected to show up to work during a shutdown, though they are not paid until the shutdown ends.

In 2013, passport offices, which are funded by fee revenue, remained open.

A large percentage of the Internal Revenue Service, IRS, workforce is expected to stop working during a shutdown, though the upcoming filing season may mean that more employees are still working than otherwise would be the case.

The IRS’s document for non-filing season shutdowns states that only about 13 percent of employees would continue working. While the 2018 filing season officially opens on Jan. 29, the document describes the filing season period as Jan. 1 through April 30.

The document notes that “historically, more exempted employees are required during the filing season to ensure activities related to executing the filing season are worked.”

IRS activities that continue during the filing season include testing of filing-season programs, processing of paper tax returns and design and printing of tax year forms. According to the OMB, the 2013 shutdown delayed almost $4 billion in tax refunds.

The Federal Reserve system, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation are all independently funded and would continue their oversight of the banking system. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the National Credit Union Administration are also independently funded and would stay open during the situation.

The Federal Communications Commission, FCC, would cease some operations, including issuing new broadcast licenses and processing equipment certifications for new electronic devices.

The Supreme Court would not only remain open to visitors but carry on with business as usual in the event of a shutdown.

Federal district, appeals and bankruptcy courts across the country will also remain open, relying on court fees and appropriations that aren’t tied to a specific year.

While government shutdowns are familiar to most Americans, they are a relatively recent development. They are the result of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974. Since then, Congress has failed to authorize funding for the federal government on 18 separate occasions. The first six of those didn’t actually affect the functioning of government at all. It wasn’t until a set of opinions issued by Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti in 1980 and ’81 that the government started treating “funding gaps”— periods when Congress has failed to allocate funds for the ongoing functions of government — as necessitating the full or partial shutdown of government agencies.

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Samuel Abasi

Samuel Abasi

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