Government Shuts Down

Leah Bumam, reporter

A government shutdown occurred recently when Congress and Senate Republicans could not agree on ways in which government operations and agencies could be funded. On January 19 at midnight and much of January 20, government agencies began discussing whether or not their respective staff would report to work the following week.

When a government shutdown happens, a furlough, or a leave of absence, occurs for nearly every federal employee. This means that each employee, that is considered to be non-essential, does not report for work and is not payed during the time allotted. Back in 2013 the government shut down due to a disagreement in appropriate funding for the following year, which caused 850,000 employees to be furloughed per day. This shutdown affected many residents of the Washington, D.C. area by closing particular services that usually remain open. With the 2018 shut down, 1,056 members of the Executive Office of the President were furloughed, while only 659 being considered essential, continued to report for duty.

Only 659 federal employees continued to work, 152 were from the World Health Organization (4.6% of WHO staff), 14 were from the Office of the Vice President (31.3% of OVP staff), 21 were from Expedited Reinstatement (27.3% of EXR staff), one was from Office of Vice President Regional Economic Strategy (100% of OVP RES staff), eight were from Council of Economic Advisors (20.8% of CEA staff), three were from Council on Environmental Quality (7.7% of CEQ staff), 57 were from Office of Administration (20.8% of OA staff), 137 were from Office of Management and Budget (29.4% of OMB staff), 137 were from Office of Management and Budget – Information Technology Oversight and Reform/United States Digital Service (0% of OMB – ITOR/USDS staff), five were from Office of National Drug Control Policy (7.7% of ONDCP staff), five were from Office of Science and Technology Policy (23.5% of OSTP staff), 44 were from National Security Council (97.8% of NSC staff), and 75 were from United States Trade Representative (29.2% of USTR staff).

However, although nearly 700 employees still worked during the shutdown, they were only allowed to stay for no longer than four hours each day in order to engage in what they called “shutdown activities.” Those in the military are considered essential and reported for duty, unless in the Department of Defense, but were possibly not paid during the shutdown. This left about 1.3 million active-duty military officers unpaid. Along with the military continuing to report for duty, special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation team continued to work on the case with Russia, due to the fact that they are considered to be exempt from a shutdown occurrence.

Many national parks and monuments were closed during the shutdown. The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island were closed on January 20 and 21. The Smithsonian’s National Zoo turned off their popular panda cameras, however, remained open because of funding from previous years. The Grand Canyon also remained open after the governor of Arizona, Doug Ducey pledged to keep the attraction running.

The Transportation Administration and U.S. Postal Service continued to be funded, thus remained open during the shutdown. Social Security and other government benefits continued, on account of it not relying on funding from Congress. Federal courts remained opened, having three weeks of funding after any government shutdown. Medicare and Medicaid programs continued to run, although some physician’s payments were delayed.

On January 22 President Trump signed a short-term spending bill with the Chamber of Commerce that would fund the government through February 8. The bill also included extending the Children’s Health Insurance Program and ending three Obamacare-related taxes and fees. Now that the government has reopened, the Senate is working on negotiations over DACA and immigration policies. If an agreement is not made about spending, or a bill is not passed by February 8, then the Senate will increase defense spending and address border security.