What happens if the U.S. government shuts down?
A US government shutdown is looming. Congress is struggling to pass a stopgap budget measure that would keep the doors open beyond the fiscal year, which ends at midnight September 30.
But with congressional bickering in full swing, and the deadline less than four days away, there is increasing anxiety about who and what will be affected.
During the previous two shutdowns, for six days in November 1995 and 21 days from December that year into early 1996, some 800,000 federal employees were ordered to stay home, according to a congressional report.
Here is a snapshot of what is likely to occur in the event Congress can not agree on a federal spending bill by October 1.
WHITE HOUSE and CONGRESS: These facilities will remain open, although both are likely to furlough some staff. The State Department has said it will temporarily furlough non-essential staff too.
PENTAGON: Military personnel will remain on duty, although the Department of Defense says there may be delays in their paycheck processing. More than half of the department’s 800,000 civilian employees are expected to be furloughed, and the Pentagon has warned of likely “hardships” for many workers.
NATIONAL SECURITY: Such services will remain operational, such as US border patrol and airport screeners. Personnel who are deemed to “protect life and property,” such as emergency service providers like disaster response teams, would stay on duty.
MEDICAL RESEARCH: The National Institutes of Health (NIH) could be severely impacted. It would not be allowed to begin new clinical trials or see new patients.
MUSEUMS and PARKS: The Smithsonian museums and all 368 sites in the National Park Service system would close. Seven million tourists were affected during the last shutdown.
ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY: EPA administrator Gina McCarthy warned that the agency “effectively shuts down.” That means virtually no one monitoring or enforcing air and water quality or oil pollution regulations.
POSTAL SERVICE: Since the US Postal Service has its own independent sources of funding, it remains open, as does the Federal Reserve.
SOCIAL SECURITY: Most entitlement programs will continue, although there will be hiccups. Social Security checks will be mailed, but Social Security offices will close. Military veterans will receive their benefits as well, but disability claims will be backlogged. Veterans hospitals will remain open.
WASHINGTON: Congress is granted exclusive jurisdiction over the US capital, and during the 1995-96 shutdown, the city was the focus of embarrassment as it halted its trash collection. Now, Mayor Vincent Gray says he will declare all city employees as “essential personnel” in the event of a shutdown, and use a contingency cash reserve fund to pay wages.
ECONOMY: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Friday that a temporary shutdown would “shatter our economy.” That may be hyperbole, but the impact could well be significant. According to Macroeconomic Advisers, the effect on fourth-quarter GDP grown of a two-week shutdown beginning October 1 would be 0.3 percentage points.