The federal government is about to shut down, which will affect many services, put pressure on workers, and stir up politics. This is because Republicans in the House are pushing for deep budget cuts, which is making the issue of federal spending contentious.
Some parts of the government will not be affected—for example, Social Security checks will still be sent out—but other parts will be extremely limited in what they can do. Any acts that aren’t necessary will be stopped by federal agencies, and millions of federal workers, including military members, won’t get paid.
If the government shuts down on Oct. 1, here’s what will happen.
Why does the government shut down?
A shutdown takes place when Congress fails to pass a bill that would pay the government and get it signed into law by the president. Twelve different spending bills need to be passed by lawmakers in order to fund government departments. However, the process takes a long time. A continuing resolution (CR) is a type of short-term extension that they often pass to keep the government running.
When laws that don’t provide money are passed, federal agencies have to stop all work that isn’t necessary and won’t pay workers as long as the shutdown lasts.
As a result, only essential workers like police officers and air traffic controllers have to go to work. All other government workers are on furlough. According to a rule from 2019, those workers will get their back pay once the funding problem is fixed.
How long will a shutdown last? When does it start?
The government’s money runs out on October 1, which is the first day of the federal fiscal year. If Congress can’t agree on a funding plan that the president puts into law, the government will shut down at 12:01 a.m.
No one can say for sure how long a shutdown will last. Many people are getting ready for a shutdown that could last weeks because the Senate is controlled by Democrats and the House is led by Republicans. Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s hard-right conservatives also want to use the shutdown as a bargaining chip to get spending cuts.
Who is affected by a shutdown?
When the government shuts down, millions of federal workers, including many of the two million military members and more than two million civilian workers across the country, will not get paid until later.
The departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security are home to almost 60% of government workers.
The Postal Service delivers mail and the Transportation Security Administration is in charge of security at airports. These are just a few of the federal jobs that people live in and deal with every day.
During a shutdown, some government offices will also have to close or have their hours cut back.
A shutdown could affect a lot more than just federal workers. It could also affect many other parts of the government. People who want to use government services like passports, clinical studies, or gun permits might have to wait.
There could be problems and slowdowns for businesses that work closely with the federal government, like federal employees or tourist services near national parks. The U.S. tourism Industry Association says that a shutdown could cost the tourism industry $140 million every day.
Lawmakers also say that a shutdown could make the stock market unstable. Goldman Sachs says that if the government shut down, economic growth would slow by 0.2% each week. However, once the government reopens, growth will pick up again.
Others say that the problems with government services have wide-reaching effects because they make people less sure that the government can do its basic jobs. As the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said, “A well-functioning economy requires a well-functioning government.”
The courts, Congress’s work, and the president’s pay are all things that come up.
The president and Congresspeople will still have jobs and get paid. But any employees who aren’t considered vital will be given time off.
It will be possible for the judiciary to keep running for a short time with money from court filings, other fees, and other allowed funds.
Notably, the three special counsels named by Attorney General Merrick Garland would still get paid even if the government shut down. This is because they are paid for by a permanent, indefinite appropriation, an area that has not been affected by shutdowns in the past.
That means that the two criminal cases against former President Donald Trump and the case against Hunter Biden, who is the son of President Joe Biden, would not be stopped. As a condition for funding the government, Trump has asked Republicans to stop paying for the investigations against him. He has called this their “last chance” to act.
When did this happen last?
Before the 1980s, when the government ran out of money, most of its activities did not shut down. But in a set of legal opinions written in 1980 and 1981, Benjamin Civiletti, who was U.S. Attorney General at the time, said that government agencies cannot legally work when they don’t have enough money.
Since then, federal officials have known that they can make exceptions for tasks that are “essential” for public safety and constitutional duties.
There have been 22 budget gaps since 1976. Ten of them caused workers to be put on leave. But most of the big shutdowns happened after Bill Clinton left office, when Newt Gingrich was Speaker of the House and his conservative majority wanted to cut the budget.
The longest government shutdown happened from 2018 to 2019 because President Trump wanted money for a wall along the southern border, but Democrats in Congress wouldn’t give it to him. It happened for 35 days, during the holiday season, but the government wasn’t completely shut down because Congress had already passed bills to fund some parts of the government.
How do we end the shutdown?
Congress is in charge of giving money to the government. To support the government, both the House and the Senate must agree on a plan, and the president must sign the bill into law.
A “continuing resolution,” or CR, is a type of short-term funding that Congress often uses to keep government offices open while budget talks are going on. A short-term bill often includes money for important national goals, like helping people who have been hurt by natural disasters right away.
However, staunch Republicans say they will not support any short-term plan. They want the government to stay closed until all 12 bills that pay it are negotiated by Congress. This has always been a difficult task that doesn’t get done until at least December.
Trump, who is Biden’s main opponent in the 2024 race, is telling the most extreme Republicans to support him.
The shut down could last weeks or even longer if they are successful.
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