Another US Government Shutdown Looms

Another US Government Shutdown Looms

by Mindy Cohn

Yet another possible US government is rapidly approaching unless Congress enacts a stopgap spending bill that will work through October 1 - the start of a new fiscal year. 

Since 1981, there have been fourteen shutdowns, with the longest-running shutdown, which began in 2018 and stretched into 2019, lasting forty-five days. The shortest duration was a one-day shutdown on May 1, 1980, during Jimmy Carter's presidency. 

In order to avoid a shutdown, Congress has to pass twelve spending bills. Given that the House passed only one before its August recess, with the Senate set to vote on only three, and that there are less than nine working days before funding expires on September 30, it is unlikely that a shutdown will be averted.

Short-term extensions of current funding, known as continuing resolutions (CR) can be passed, but only if the president and Congress agree to pass it. Otherwise, the resulting funding gap will require that federal agencies take steps to shut down.

Should the federal government issue a shutdown, it would mean that non-essential federal employees are furloughed. Essential federal employees would have to work without pay until the shutdown ends. Essential workers include military, air traffic control, veteran healthcare, and federal criminal investigations. 

As the post office and Federal Reserve have their own funding streams, a shutdown would not affect them. Entitlement programs, including Social Security, food stamps, and Medicare, will continue distributing money. 

So, while there is a possibility that Congress could pass an individual spending bill in the next two weeks to avert a total shutdown and provide funding for some federal agencies to continue operating at normal capacity, political experts are declaring it unlikely that all twelve individual bills will pass through both chambers before the deadline.

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