Here's What Shuts Down In A (Partial) Government Shutdown

Monday, December 17th 2018, 6:05 pm
By: News 9

With a week to go until Christmas, and no agreement reached on either end of Pennsylvania Avenue, the government could be headed towards a shutdown.

President Trump wants $5 billion for his border wall, and declared last week he'd be "proud" to shut down the government to get it. Democrats in Congress don't want to spend more than $1.6 billion on border security. And Republicans on Capitol Hill don't seem quite sure what to do.

Meanwhile, the president is expected to head to Mar-a-Lago for his more than two-week holiday vacation, and it's unclear if he'll change his plans just because some government services are closed and thousands of government workers are working without pay or furloughed.

Related: White House Closer To Partial Shutdown With Wall Demand 

This would be the third shutdown under Mr. Trump's presidency, following two very brief shutdowns over the span of one month earlier this year. Before Mr. Trump took office, no shutdown had occurred when one party controlled the House, Senate and White House since the 1970s, when the federal government shut down under Jimmy Carter. 

When a government shutdown would start

A partial government shutdown begins midnight Friday — well, technically Saturday — if the House and Senate don't pass a funding bill and the president doesn't sign it.

The shutdown would last until both the House and Senate pass a funding bill, and the president signs it.

This would be a partial government shutdown. A number of departments and agencies are funded through September 2019, thanks to previously passed appropriations bills. Funding that expires after Dec. 21 covers the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department, the State Department, the Interior Department, the Departure of Agriculture and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, among some other federal entities.

In the event of a shutdown, the Office of Management and Budget — the office still run by incoming acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney — issues guidance to each agency and each agency would develop its own shutdown plan. In a shutdown, federal agencies must halt all "non-essential" discretionary work and so-called non-essential employees must stay home until new funding legislation is signed into law.

The government services that would continue

  • The U.S. Postal Service would still operate, and mail would be delivered as usual.
  • Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents would still work, and air travel would continue virtually unaffected. Holiday travel could continue as planned.
  • Social Security checks would be mailed as planned. Social Security doesn't fall under one of the affected departments anyways, but even if it did, those checks would be unaffected. 
  • Medicare and Medicaid coverage would continue unaffected. 
  • Special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation would go on unimpeded.
  • Customs and Border Patrol agents at the border, and U.S. troops deployed to the border, would still work as usual. They just wouldn't get paid at the time. 

The government services that would stop 

  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture would close down state and local farm service centers across the country, according to a report from Democrats on the Senate Appropriations Committee
  • The Federal Housing Administration would see slowdowns in loan processing and approvals, and new loan applications may be halted altogether 

The government services that could close

  • The National Parks Service may or may not close its parks. They did in 2013, but it's unclear what would happen this time around. 

What happens to federal employees

More than 420,000 federal employees would have to go to work without pay, according to that report from the Senate Appropriations Committee. The committee estimates that includes: 

  • More than 41,000 law enforcement and correctional officers
  • Up to 88 percent of Department of Homeland Security employees
  • Up to 5,000 Forest Service firefighters

On top of that, more than 380,000 federal employees would be furloughed — meaning, sent home without pay — the committee estimates. That includes:

  • Roughly 86 percent of the Department of Commerce staff
  • About 96 percent of NASA employees
  • About 52,000 IRS workers
  • Roughly 95 percent of Housing and Urban Development employees 

Since it's unclear how long a shutdown would last, if one does indeed occur, it's unclear what kind of disruption there would be in federal employee paychecks. During the most recent shutdown in January 2018, the three-day shutdown over the weekend wasn't quite long enough to delay paychecks.


Congress isn't required to pay back pay to furloughed employees, but historically, they have.

"Our members are asking how they are supposed to pay for rent, food, and gas if they are required to work without a paycheck," David Cox, the president of the American Federation of Government Employees, said in a statement. "The holiday season makes these inquiries especially heart-wrenching."

Ironically, a government shutdown, according to the Center for a Responsible Federal Budget, tends to cost more than keeping the government open does. Creating contingency plans costs resources, uncollected fees are lost, and furloughed employees typically get back pay anyways.

Timeline for a possible shutdown 

Without approved funding legislation, there is no timeline for a shutdown.

The longest shutdown occurred during President Bill Clinton's time in office, also over the holidays — a 21-day shutdown from Dec. 15, 1995, to Jan. 6, 1996.

In the event of a shutdown, it's quite possible the issue wouldn't be resolved until the new Congress begins Jan. 3. Democrats will take control of the House then.

But as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said last week, "I'm just sort of hoping for a Christmas miracle here."

 First published on December 17, 2018

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