What is a government shutdown? What happens if funding runs out?


Washington — Time is running out for House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to find a compromise to keep the federal government running and avoid a costly shutdown.

republican infighting The clash between moderates and the hard right has prevented the House from passing a short-term funding bill that is needed to keep the government open after Sept. 30, when funding for federal agencies ends.

a temporary financing measure Sunday proposed The bill by members of the Main Street Caucus and the House Freedom Caucus includes an 8% cut to agency budgets, excluding the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs.

Hard-right members immediately announced their opposition to the move and threatened to remove McCarthy as speaker if their demands were not met. And the bill would also be dead when it reaches the Democratic-controlled Senate, which must also approve funding to keep the government open.

McCarthy said Wednesday he would keep the House in session Friday and Saturday while trying to find a solution.

Here’s what happens during a government shutdown, and what our chances are of surviving a shutdown this time:

What is a government shutdown?

Tourists walk by a placard announcing that the Statue of Liberty is closed due to the government shutdown on October 1, 2013 in New York.

AFP photo/Emmanuel Dunand


Many federal government agencies are funded annually by a dozen appropriations bills that need to be passed by Congress and signed by the President before the start of the new fiscal year on October 1. These are often grouped together in a larger piece of legislation called an “omnibus” bill.

When Congress doesn’t meet that deadline, the government would shut down in whole or in part, depending on which agencies have their annual funding approved. Lawmakers typically buy themselves more time by passing a continuing resolution, which temporarily increases existing funding levels to keep agencies functioning while they work to reach an agreement on new spending.

The Constitution says that the Treasury Department cannot spend money without permission by law. Under a statute called the Antideficiency Act, agencies are required – with a few exceptions – to cease operations in the absence of funding authorized by Congress. The act, which was first passed in 1870 and has been updated several times since then, also prevents the government from entering into financial obligations without the signature of Congress.

“If there’s no law about who gets the money, the Treasury can’t pay out any money,” said Matt Glassman, a senior fellow at the Institute of Government Affairs at Georgetown University. “If those annual bills go out, there’s no law to allocate money to certain functions.”

What happens during a government shutdown and who is affected?

Federal employees express frustration at Congress’s inability to end the federal government shutdown in Houston on Tuesday, October 15, 2013.

Mary D. De Jesus/Houston Chronicle via Getty Images


In a shutdown, the federal government would have to halt all non-essential operations until funding is approved by Congress and signed into law. Each agency determines what work is essential and what is not. Members of Congress also make this determination for their own staff.

Glassman said, “Whether essential or non-essential to you, no money can come out of the treasury. But who can continue to work and bear the obligation, even if there is no appropriation – there are three exceptions. ”

Those exceptions are defined by the Anti-Deficiency Act. They allow government funding Operations to protect human life and property, and to employ officials involved in the constitutional process, such as the President, his staff, and members of Congress.

Air traffic controllers and Transportation Security Administration officers, as well as all active-duty military members, many federal law enforcement officers and employees of federally funded hospitals are considered essential.

Essential workers, even if they continue to work during the shutdown, are not paid when the government shuts down. They get back pay once their agency has funding restored. Employees in non-essential positions are furloughed until the government is funded again and report to work or collect a pay check. However, under a 2019 law, they are guaranteed to receive back pay once the shutdown ends.

According to the Office of Management and Budget, during a 16-day partial shutdown in 2013, about 850,000 federal employees, out of a total of 2.1 million, were furloughed at some point.

What stays open and closed during the shutdown?

It depends on which Appropriation Bills are enacted. Any agency whose funding is approved will operate as normal. Some programs that depend on fees for their funding also continue.

As things stand now, none of the 12 annual appropriations bills have been passed, meaning the shutdown will affect every corner of the federal government.

Depending on how long the shutdown lasts, national parks may close. Passport processing, appointment of new government employees and research at the National Institute of Health may stop. MLAs’ interactions with Congress offices may also be reduced. The White House maintains a list of links to agencies’ contingency plans in the event of a shutdown that can be found here.

Services such as the Postal Service and entitlement programs including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are not halted during the shutdown because they are funded through permanent appropriations that do not require renewal. Entitlement payments continue, but staffing levels at agencies may be affected and there may be enrollment delays or other service interruptions.

“Any type of interaction you have at a customer service level with the federal government can certainly be impacted,” Glassman said.

Maya McGuinness, chair of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, said that if the shutdown was short-lived the public would not even notice its effects.

“The truth is that most people really won’t notice much of a difference,” McGinnis said. “If you plan to spend a vacation in a national park, you must visit [upset] And disappointed. But most people will continue with their everyday lives and interact with the government the same way they do and won’t notice any major difference. “It could get worse if it continues for a long time.”

When was the last government shutdown?

The last government shutdown ran from December 2018 to January 2019, when congressional funding ended for nine executive branch departments with nearly 800,000 employees.

The five-week partial shutdown cost the economy $11 billion, according to a Congressional Budget Office report. The CBO said most of this would be recouped after the shutdown ends, but estimated a permanent loss of about $3 billion.

business across the country Those dependent on government customers reported a slowdown in business and some said they had to lay off staff. Tens of thousands of immigration court hearings Cancelled, government contractor struggled To feed their families and pay their bills.

Federal workers line up outside Chef and activist Jose Andres’ World Central Kitchen to receive free food and goods amid a partial government shutdown in Washington, Jan. 22, 2019.

Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images


The shutdown was caused by a standoff over President Donald Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion to build a wall along the Mexican border. Trump had vowed to shut down the government if the funding was not included in spending legislation, but Democrats refused to budge.

Trump, after insisting for several weeks that he would not reopen the government without funding for the wall, signed a bill to reopen the government for three weeks while Congress reached a spending agreement. Had a conversation.

Three weeks later, Trump signed a compromise spending bill to prevent another government shutdown, ultimately accepting a bill that did not meet his long-promised demand for $5.7 billion for a border wall. Was.

What was the longest government shutdown?

According to the Congressional Research Service, since 1976, when the current budget process was implemented, there have been 20 funding gaps lasting at least an entire day.

Before the 1980s, it was common for the government to operate as usual when a funding bill was not passed, Glassman said. But in 1980 and 1981, Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti issued two opinions stating that it was illegal for the government to spend money without congressional approval.

“Since then, there have been some funding gaps that have been relatively short — two or three days — and then there have been three longer gaps that have been politically significant, all driven by Republicans,” said Roy Meyers, political science professor emeritus. University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

The 2018–2019 shutdown over Trump’s border wall funding lasted a full 34 days, making it the longest shutdown in US history.

Previously, the record stood at 21 days in 1995 and 1996, when President Bill Clinton refused to bow to spending cuts and tax cuts proposed by House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Public opinion was in Clinton’s favor, Meyers said, and Republicans ultimately caved.

There was no second shutdown until 2013, when Republicans used budget negotiations to defeat the Affordable Care Act. With efforts to filibuster the new health care law, Republicans conceded defeat and the government reopened after 16 days.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell acknowledged on September 19 that public opinion was not with Republicans during the previous shutdown.

“I’m not a fan of a government shutdown,” McConnell said. “I’ve watched some of them over the years. They’ve never changed policy and they’ve always been a loser for the Republicans politically.”

Will the government shut it down this time? When?

it seems likely. With just days left until the October 1 deadline, time is running out for McCarthy to find a solution that can pass both the House and Senate and be signed into law by President Biden. Both houses will need to move quickly to pass a similar continuing resolution to increase funding at current levels and keep the government open.

Republicans’ razor-thin majority in the House means McCarthy has little room for maneuver, given strong opposition from hard-right members who are demanding dramatic cuts in spending. If McCarthy moves forward with a bill that could attract Democratic votes, he would face the prospect of conservatives trying to oust him as speaker, given the speakership’s advantage in first-person elections. There is a dynamic arising from the concessions they have to make in order to win the place.

Still, McCarthy seemed optimistic that a shutdown could be avoided.

He told reporters on September 20, “This is not September 30. The game is not over. So we will continue to work on it. I have been to this place many times before. We are going to solve this problem Are.”

Alice Kim and Jack Terman contributed reporting.




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