POLITICS
01/18/2018 01:59 pm ET Updated Jan 22, 2018

Here's What Happens In A Government Shutdown

National parks could close, but essential operations like air traffic control continue.

The federal government is once again entering a shutdown as Congress failed to pass short-term funding legislation by midnight Friday.

Republicans and Democratic lawmakers remained at odds with each other and with President Donald Trump over a budget proposal, blocking attempts to avert the shutdown with a short-term spending bill.

You might be wondering what a “government shutdown” entails and how it could affect you. Let’s take a look.

How we got here

There have been 18 government shutdowns since the modern congressional budgeting process took effect in 1976.

The most recent occurred Oct. 1 to Oct. 16, 2013, under former President Barack Obama, over a dispute between Republicans and Democrats over the Affordable Care Act. The shutdown cost the U.S. economy at least $24 billion, according to the financial ratings agency Standard & Poor’s.

Today, lawmakers were fighting over several issues in the stopgap funding proposals. Republicans were split on efforts to include language that would increase military spending and allow for stricter immigration standards, while Democrats were looking to reach a deal on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, as well as funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP.

Congress appeared to signal that an agreement was imminent earlier this week, but some lawmakers suggested Trump undermined the negotiations with his reported “shithole countries” comment last week and his tweet Thursday that questioned CHIP funding in the proposal.

What Could Close

Nonessential, or “non-exempted,” federal operations could cease. In 2013, roughly 850,000 federal workers received furloughs, meaning they were placed on temporary leave. Furloughed employees are not paid during a shutdown, but Congress has almost always agreed to pay them retroactively.

During the 2013 shutdown, all national parks, zoos and monuments, as well as Smithsonian museums, closed. The Trump administration was working on a plan to keep hundreds of these venues open in the event of a government shutdown, reported The Washington Post. It’s unclear which parks would remain open and for how long. Zoo animal care would not be affected, the Post reported.

Within the Department of Agriculture, thousands of workers in the Food Safety and Inspection Service might be furloughed, including positions related to public health science and international programs that ensure that meat, poultry and egg products from foreign countries are safe.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shut down most of its influenza program in 2013, including testing labs and tracking programs across the country. Paul Billings, national senior vice president of advocacy at the American Lung Association, noted that 49 of the 50 states are reporting widespread flu cases.

Along with the flu, the CDC performs a number of functions to address public health threats, such as a bioterrorism attack, a disease outbreak or the spread of viruses from other nations. 

“The nation’s public health infrastructure is already stretched very thin,” Billings told HuffPost. “Many states and communities have very limited public health departments, so they’re all counting on the CDC to be their backbone.”

Many passport offices, small business loan offices, and IRS call centers would also likely be shuttered.

What Might Be Delayed

Americans should expect visa and passport processing to be delayed, since they are deemed nonessential. Federal mortgage approval, as well as veterans and unemployment benefits, could be delayed as well.

During the 2013 shutdown, reviews of veterans’ disability applications slowed significantly. At the same time, three-quarters of employees from the National Institutes of Health and two-thirds of employees from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were furloughed.

What Could Remain Open

Essential, or “exempted,” functions would continue. Basically, if someone could die or if the economy could face irreparable harm when a federal worker is off the job, they aren’t going to be furloughed.

Law enforcement officials and members of the military will continue to work, since their jobs are deemed “necessary to protect life and property.” Courts will remain open as well.

Because the U.S. Postal Service is independently funded, the agency would continue to operate and your mail will be delivered. Airport security operations would function normally because the Transportation Security Administration would continue to be funded. Air traffic control operations would also continue.

The Social Security Administration would continue to operate on most levels. You could apply for benefits, but you’d have to wait to get replacement Social Security or Medicare cards.

The Department of Agriculture would maintain funding for food stamps and other necessary nutritional programs. Veterans hospitals will remain open and operational.

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team should continue to operate, a Justice Department spokesperson told CNN.

The Office of Management and Budget’s website lists contingency plans for dozens of federal agencies. You can view them here.

This article has been updated to reflect that the Senate voted against the short-term spending bill late Friday.

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