What actually closes in a U.S. government shutdown?

Lloyd Doyle
January 21, 2018

Midlanders found the 2013 partial government shutdown to be mostly a nuisance, they said Friday as they prepared for the possibility of another similar event.

"Shutdowns waste money, interrupt services that taxpayers deserve and chip away the public's faith that Congress and the administration know what they're doing", said Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, the union that represents 150,000 workers at 32 federal agencies and departments. More than 850,000, "non-essential" federal workers had to stay home during the last shutdown in 2013. But "things start to crumble" over time, he said, as Americans begin to realize how reliant they are on the government. He tasked Congress with passing legislation to codify the program's provisions into law by March, signaling he'd be open to signing such a deal.

"Year after year, the failure of Congress to do its job has eroded the ability of Federal agencies to make prudent program, policy, and management decisions on everything from national defense to the delivery of social services", said Max Stier, president and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service, in an NBC op-ed. The shutdown, which furloughed 241,000 employees out of the total 2.3 million people who worked for the government, came about because the budget had fewer cuts than President Reagan had originally proposed. And no country ever became great by operating under endless short-term government funding deals. The Trump Administration has indicated it will try to keep national parks open but whether that is achievable, and whether it will extend to the North Coast, remains to be seen. A lot of other things - like museums, parks and many federal offices - are not.

The National Park Service estimated the shutdown resulted in $US500 million ($626 million) in lost visitor spending in areas around the parks and the Smithsonian museums across Washington DC, New York and Virginia. But again, it's a false narrative that we control all of government because you need 60 votes to advance anything in the Senate. During previous shutdowns, lawmakers were advised that they did not have to furlough aides they needed to write laws, help them vote, or communicate with their constituents.

A three-day shutdown took place beginning October 5 1990 when George H.W. Bush pledged to veto any continuing resolution that did not involve a plan to reduce the deficit. The tax filing season opens in just a few days, yet many employers and taxpayers are still trying to understand the changes Congress made to the tax code late past year -the largest overhaul in three decades. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Texas has almost 200,000 federal employees, fourth in the nation behind California, Virginia and Maryland. However, some delays are possible, according to CNBC. Passport and visa processing, which are largely self-funded by consumer fees, will not shut down. The Small Business Administration was unable to process about 700 applications for $140-M in loans until the shutdown ended, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Members of Congress would continue to collect their paychecks.

Andy Kiersz  Business Insider
Andy Kiersz Business Insider

However, a program at the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to track flu outbreaks was temporarily halted. The CDC is busy this time of year dealing with a brutal flu season. We will not stop issuing Social Security checks, nor will we send the Federal Aviation Administration's air traffic controllers home and ground every aircraft in the country. There were delays in the review process for new applicants. When asked if leaders of both parties of Congress would come to some sort of agreement that would allow the government to remain open, Elizabeth Cisneros, a tourist from Texas at the Roosevelt Birthplace, was skeptical.

It looks like the lights will stay on, trains will still run and mail will still be delivered despite the shutdown.

As a government shutdown loomed, the White House said Friday that President Donald Trump would not leave for a planned weekend in Florida unless a spending bill passes. If there was a prolonged lapse in funding a "limited number" of workers may be placed on furlough. About 280,000 workers were furloughed for 27 days beginning on December 16, 1995.

Z-Burger Tenleytown: 11 a.m. -4 p.m. Monday, government workers get a free single burger when they show their government ID.

A shutdown occurs when Congress can't agree on a spending bill.


Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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