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Washington Watch: Here’s how a government shutdown would disrupt Washington and beyond

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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
SPX,
-2.69%

lower.

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.

From the archive: The government shutdown is ending, after becoming the longest on record — by a wide margin

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.

See: White House pushes Congress to pass stopgap budget with disaster aid

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.

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