Lawmakers are back in Washington, D.C., on Monday and have less than two weeks to head off a partial government shutdown. What happens if they can’t?
Past shutdowns — like the one that ended in January 2019 — have resulted in the furloughs of hundreds of thousands of federal workers; closures of national parks and monuments; and delayed both tax refunds and the release of economic data. They have also cost the government billions of dollars and helped send stocks
The government’s fiscal year ends on Sept. 30, and if lawmakers don’t agree to extend funding past then, a partial shutdown would ensue. It would be the first since the 35-day shutdown of late 2018 to early 2019, the longest one on record.
Fast forward to the present day, and Washington, the nation and the world are grappling with the coronavirus pandemic. During a shutdown in 2013, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention workers were furloughed, in what the agency’s then-director has called “a terrible time” that meant discontinuing laboratory work and scaling back some tracking systems for disease.
Asked Monday what impact a shutdown would have on the Biden administration’s COVID-19 response, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the effort is on preventing a shutdown. “As we get closer, we can certainly discuss that, but right now that’s where our energies are,” she told reporters.
The White House has asked Congress for a so-called continuing resolution to keep the government operating past Sept. 30. Democrats, Politico reports, are eyeing a such a stopgap spending bill that would last through Dec. 10, with Dec. 3 as another possible option — including billions of dollars in relief for hurricane-battered states and funding to help Afghan allies.
Government shutdowns don’t mean that federal work in Washington or the rest of the country grinds to a total halt. The Defense Department, for example, kept operating through the 35-day shutdown that ended in early 2019, and mail service is not interrupted. That’s because the Postal Service relies on revenues from stamps and service fees, not taxpayer funds.