Federal government could be shuttered if Congress fails to pass shutdown

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Federal government could be shuttered if Congress fails to pass shutdown

The federal government is grappling with the possibility of a looming government shutdown that could force federal workers to go without pay if Congress fails to pass a funding bill by Saturday.

Congress is negotiating over a short-term continuing resolution that would extend funding on a short-term basis to allow negotiations over spending levels for the rest of fiscal year 2024 to play out and legislation to be passed.

Republicans are divided over a CR and whether other measures like border security measures, Ukraine funding and disaster aid should be attached. Senators have started creating a bipartisan short-term CR, though the measure has not yet been introduced.

Any funding legislation would ultimately require bipartisan support to become law given Republicans control of the House and the Democrats' narrow majority in the Senate, lacking the 60 votes needed to defeat a potential GOP filibuster.

However, the final vote must not be unanimous because the final vote must not be unanimous. As the funding deadline approaches, senators frequently use this dynamic to leverage votes on their preferred amendments in exchange for signing on to any unanimous consent agreement.

If Congress fails to approve the spending before the expiration date, the entire federal government would not be shut down. The federal agencies' essential services continue with staff working without pay, while agencies' non-essential services grind to a halt and those workers are furloughed for the duration of the lapse in funding.

The Office of Management and Budget collaborates with each federal government agency on contingency planning for a potential funding lapse, including by designating essential and non-essential services.

Here is a look at which role in the federal government would be affected by a shut down and whether it would affect programs like Medicare or veterans' benefits.

Government employees involved in public safety are usually considered essential workers during a government shutdown, and continue to work without regular payments during the duration of the funding lapse.

Among those deemed essential per the Congressional Research Service and Committee for a Responsible Federal budget are members of the military, federal law enforcement and border protection officers, air traffic controllers, transportation security agency personnel, and power grid maintenance personnel.

Some government agencies would consider only a small percentage of their workforces as vital to leave a skeleton staff in the event of emergencies or to support vital services.

The Small Business Administration would continue handling disaster relief loan applications but would curtail other lending, while the SEC would keep 10% of its staff on hand in the event of a financial crisis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would furlough over half its staff, so disease monitoring would continue even as other public health activities would stop.

The Federal Reserve, the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation are among the agencies that would continue to operate, including the Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Comptroller of the Currency.

Certain agencies have had employees in certain roles designated as essential in some past shutdowns and non-essential in others, leaving it uncertain at this time how those agencies would be affected by a shutdown this weekend.

In early 2018, almost 850,000 federal employees furloughed, a figure that could be a similar number to the number of workers furloughed during a potential shut down if it occurs this weekend.

Furloughed workers are barred from working and are not paid until the funding lapse has been resolved.

In 2020, furloughed workers had no legal right to retroactive pay for work missed during a shutdown. In practice, Congress approved retroactive pay following past government shutdowns - often in the same legislation that ended the lapse in funding.

After the funding lapse in FY2019, the Government Employee Fair Treatment Act was signed into law, which created a statutory obligation for retroactive pay for furloughed employees, so furloughed workers will eventually be paid for missed time.

Congress funds veterans' benefits through advance appropriations, such as funding for FY2024 in legislation providing funding for FY2023, so they usually experience little to no disruption during a government shutdown.

The Veterans Affairs hospitals would remain fully staffed and veterans would still receive pension benefits and have other claims processed, veterans said.

Both Medicare and Social Security are mandatory spending programs funded outside the annual appropriations process used by Congress to fund federal agencies each fiscal year.

According to past shutdowns, it is possible that some services associated with these programs could be impacted - such as benefit verifications or providing replacement cards.