WASHINGTON — It's beginning to look a lot like shutdown.
For the third time this year under President Donald Trump, it appears the federal government could be heading toward a shutdown, with the current spending arrangements for nine departments and other agencies set to lapse Saturday morning.
With conservatives in the U.S. House and Trump balking at a stopgap spending bill that doesn't include $5 billion Trump is demanding for a wall along the southern border, and Democrats refusing to support that funding, it wasn't clear that a compromise could be reached before midnight Friday to avoid the shutdown.
Speaking to reporters after a meeting at the White House on Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said Trump had "legitimate concerns for border security."
Nationally, a shutdown could mean that that as many as 380,000 workers would be furloughed without pay while more than 400,000 would be required to work without pay until the showdown is settled.
"This is no way to run a government," said U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield, whose district includes many of those employed by the federal government in downtown Detroit. "Every single one of our federal workers and the services they provide are valuable and worth fighting for."
In Michigan, here's what to know:
How long will it last?
If recent history is any guide, it won't last long. In 2013, a shutdown lasted 16 days, but the ones since then have been much shorter, with one funding gap in February lasting hours and another before that sorted out in about three days. With this one starting on the weekend and government already closed Monday and Tuesday for the Christmas holiday, it would be until Wednesday before much of any impact were felt.
What agencies are impacted?
Much of government, including the Defense Department, has already been funded and this shutdown affects nine departments: Agriculture, Commerce, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Justice, State, Transportation and Treasury.
How many employees in Michigan?
It's difficult to get exact numbers but according to Governing magazine, those agencies earlier this year accounted for about 6,300 employees in Michigan working everywhere from the IRS to the Customs and Border Patrol and federal prisons to parks.
Who gets to go home?
That's tough to say exactly but here's how it works. If your agency decides that your job is essential to the welfare of the nation — or "excepted" from furlough — you keep working, you're just not getting paid until the funding is resolved. And that applies to Transportation Security Administration personnel at the airports, Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents at the Ambassador Bridge and elsewhere, and federal corrections personnel. The National Treasury Employees Union, for instance, says most if not all of the active members of its 759-member CBP unit in Detroit will be working without any guarantee about when they'll get paid; as for its 557-member IRS unit in Detroit, if national figures hold, 90 percent could be sent home.
Do they get paid eventually?
They have in the past, and that holds for both those furloughed and those on the job, though Congress has to approve it.
What about government benefits?
The shutdown won't impact mail delivery, Social Security checks, Section 8 housing vouchers, Medicare benefits or any of that, at least not in the immediate future (and for most of those programs, not at all). And while food stamp benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program do fall under the Agriculture Department, those benefits would likely continue for several weeks at the very least before available funding to cover them dried up.
What about federal courts?
Up and running. Even though the Justice Department won't be funded, the Administrative Office of the Courts, which is a different branch of government has made clear, just like in other shutdowns, they have enough revenue from fees and other streams to keep the courts open for awhile, at least. So if you have a hearing Wednesday, don't expect to get out of it.
What about the states' funding?
Michigan's got a state budget of about $57 billion and about $22 billion of that comes directly from the federal government. That money pays for programs covering everything from Medicaid for low-income individuals and families to funding for roads and bridges. Kurt Weiss, spokesman for the State Budget Office, says it takes about 45 days, however, before a shutdown begins to really affect most of those programs in terms of missing reimbursements, so don't expect to see any change right away.
So where could the pinch be felt?
It's still somewhat unclear, for instance, whether national parks will be open, so if you have a holiday trip planned to one, don't be shocked if it's closed. Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans on homes will still be processed, though the agency could be slowed because of more limited staff resources and there are questions about whether and how quickly new loans will be cleared. And if most of the IRS goes home, it could mean you'll have a hard time getting questions answered — and there's even some concern, with the IRS still getting up to speed on tax changes enacted late last year, that it could delay the tax filing season.
Tony Reardon, the national president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said even if the visible impact isn't huge, "A government shutdown, even partial, is a disruptive and chaotic time for federal employees around the country, as well as the taxpayers they serve. ...
"The men and women of the civil service are especially anxious because the potential shutdown comes so close to the holiday season, threatening all of their paychecks and for some, cancelling the leave they planned to use to spend time with their families," he said. "We strongly urge Congress to avoid a lapse in appropriations and give federal agencies the funding they need for the rest of the fiscal year to carry out their important missions without interruption."
Contact Todd Spangler at 703-854-8947 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @tsspangler.
Editor's note: This updated version makes clear that federal courts are a separate branch of government and will remain open despite the shutdown's affecting the Justice Department.
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