DemDaily: When a Government Shuts Down

September 18, 2023

Thirteen days. That is how long the United States Congress has to fund the government or shut it down.

government shutdown is the process the Executive Branch must enter into when Congress and the President fail to pass legislation, or a budget, funding government operations and agencies, and must therefore "shut down" or suspend non-essential federal programs.

The hold up is not between the parties, but among House Republicans who are embroiled in an intraparty battle between ideological factions.

Although President Joe Biden and House GOP leadership struck a budget deal in May, the final version submitted by House Republican appropriators bears little resemblance to that agreement and has no bipartisan support.

While House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is advocating a stopgap measure to provide for more negotiating time, members of the GOP's far-right Freedom Caucus are embracing a shutdown as a negotiating tactic for their spending priorities.

The standoff is likely to result in what, according to the US House, would be the 21st federal funding gap since the current budget and appropriations process was first enacted under the Budget Act of 1974.

The Way It Works
The US government is funded by 12 annual appropriations bills, passed by Congress on or before each September 30th for the following fiscal year. If lawmakers cannot come to an agreement, they may pass a continuing resolution (CR) that funds federal agencies at their current levels through an extended period to allow for further negotiation.

If they fail to pass a CR, then the US government is forced to temporarily shut down until a resolution between the parties over the federal budget can be achieved.

What Happens
* The federal government must “shut down” the affected agencies by both furloughing non-essential personnel and curtailing agency activities and services that do not directly relate to national security.
* At least 800,000 civilian federal employees, who would be either sent home or asked to work without pay, could be affected.
* Federal agencies reduce their operations to only what is deemed essential. Programs and agencies that receive mandatory funding or are self-sufficient, such as the US Postal Service and the Federal Reserve, would continue to operate, as would military operations.
* Essential services necessary for public safety such as air traffic control and law enforcement would keep operating, although not at the same levels.
* National parks and Smithsonian museums would close.
* Social security checks and Veterans Administration benefits would continue, but new applications would be delayed.
* Agencies like the EPA would furlough up to 99% of its employees, Agriculture 66.5%, Commerce 86% and Housing and Urban Development 95%.
* Similarly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health would be severely affected.

The longest federal shutdown, under President Donald Trump, lasted 35-days -- from December 22, 2018 to January 25, 2019. The devastating showdown over Trump's border wall resulted in economic losses of $11 billion.

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Kimberly Scott

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Sources: Washington Post, Center for American Progress, The Hill, White House, US House

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