Congress could be barreling toward another government shutdown at midnight on Friday if Republicans and Democrats don’t pass a bill to fund the government by then.
This isn’t the first time the government has shut down because of Congress’ inability to negotiate a funding package. The last time the government shut down was in December 2018 – a standoff that ended in January 2019 after then-President Donald Trump conceded to a funding package that didn’t include the billions of dollars in border wall funding he spent more than a month demanding.
A lot of details are still up in the air of how a government shutdown could play out, but protocols set by the Office of Management and Budget shed some light.
The OMB oversees implementation of the executive branch’s initiatives and is in charge of alerting government employees about a government shutdown. Even before the government shuts down because of disarray in Congress, the OMB has plans in place for every government department and agency, all of which are laid out in significant detail on its website.
These specific plans include information on how many employees would get furloughed, which employees are essential and would work without pay (for example, air traffic controllers, Secret Service agents and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention laboratory staff), how long it would take to wind down operations in the hours before a shutdown and what activities would come to a halt.
Some departments, such as the Department of Defense, the State Department and the Department of Labor, need at least half a day to prepare for a shutdown.
The military is considered essential and would still report for duty. However, the troops – including those in combat – could potentially not be paid during a shutdown.
Also expected: If the shutdown continues through the weekend, many civilian Department of Defense employees might not be working, including instructors at military academies and maintenance contractors.
If the shutdown goes on for weeks, more than 2.14 million active-duty military will be expected to work potentially without pay. The military is currently paid through February 1.
The shutdown would also affect the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, meaning if you wanted a gun permit, you’ll have to wait until the shutdown is over.
Essential services, such as Social Security, air traffic control and the Transportation Security Administration, will continue to be funded even if some employees of those agencies are not.
And the US Postal Service won’t stop serving residents – expect your mail to continue through the weekend.
Members of Congress have to continue working to fund the government, especially considering they will continue to receive paychecks because it’s written into law.
In 2013, the shutdown especially affected residents of Washington. But this time around, Mayor Muriel Bowser has vowed that services in the city will continue, unlike the 2013 shutdown. And if you’re planning to visit Washington, DC, this weekend, the Smithsonian museums will remain open even if the government shuts down.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki expressed confidence that Congress would resolve the issue of government funding ahead of Friday’s deadline and avert any shutdowns.
“That’s what we are working towards. Obviously, it requires Congress to prevent that from happening, but we have every confidence they will move forward and prevent the government from shutting down,” Psaki told reporters Wednesday.