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What Happens if there is a Government Shutdown


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In recent years, Congress has on multiple occasions enacted a "continuing resolution" that extends the most recent budget into the future. These resolutions are usually non-controversial measures that allow the government to continue to function normally while Congress works to find common ground on future funding levels for government programs and agencies. The current resolution expires at midnight on September 30. As a result, if a new continuing resolution is not passed before the deadline, every "non-essential" function of the federal government will shutdown until a new continuing resolution is enacted.

Unfortunately, Republicans in the House of Representatives and the Senate have refused to enact a continuing resolution unless President Obama and Democrats agree to defund the Affordable Care Act, a law that has already benefited millions of Americans and is poised to provide a new path to affordable healthcare for millions of families and individuals. This is simply unacceptable.

In 2010, the Affordable Care Act was enacted by the House of Representatives and the Senate, and signed into law by President Barack Obama. In 2012, the Supreme Court held, by a vote of five to four with Chief Justice John Roberts (who was appointed by President George W. Bush) in the majority, that the law was constitutional. The health care law has been implemented within the requirement of both our Constitution and the Administrative Procedures Act, which controls the actions of federal agencies. This historic legislation is already providing millions Americans security in their health coverage by expanding Medicaid, allowing individuals to stay on their parent's health plan by through the age of 26, prohibiting the denial of coverage due to pre-existing conditions, and ensuring access to free preventative healthcare. More importantly, the new insurance exchanges that open on October 1st will provide unprecedented access for Americans to new and improved affordable health plans catered to their individual needs.

It is clear that a government shutdown is a last ditch effort by Republicans to dismantle one of the most important reforms benefiting Americans in recent history, and I will not allow them to hold the government, federal workers, and the American people hostage in the name of obstructionism. I remain committed to finding a resolution to this unnecessary crisis as soon as possible, so that we can continue to focus on the recovery of our economy and on the real priorities of our nation: good jobs with benefits, comprehensive immigration reform, and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Even high-profile Republicans agree that using a government shutdown to force extreme legislative priorities is a mistake. Governor Chris Christie described the threat of a shutdown as "irresponsible." Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma said "shutting down the government doesn't work".

In relation to the specifics of a government shutdown, it is important to remember that the term "non-essential" has a broad definition that includes many functions of government. The list below briefly outlines services that will be effected due to a government shutdown:

Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security:

Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other mandatory programs will not be effected.

Federal Workers:

About 800,000 federal employees will see their paychecks jeopardized or delayed.

US military:

The military's 1.4 million active-duty personnel will stay on duty, but barring the passage of any specific measures by Congress, their paychecks will be delayed. About half of the Defense Department's civilian employees will be furloughed.

National Parks and Museums:

All national parks and federal wildlife refuges would be closed for the duration of the shutdown. About 9 million visitors were turned away from parks, museums and monuments run by the National Park Service in the mid-1990s, the last time the government shut down temporarily.


Nasa will furlough almost all of its employees, but it will continue to keep workers at Mission Control in Houston and elsewhere to support the International Space Station. The National Weather Service will keep forecasting weather and issuing warnings and the National Hurricane Center will continue to track storms.


Federal air traffic controllers will remain on the job and airport will continue to operate security checkpoints; delays are possible. Federal inspectors will continue enforcing safety rules.

The State Department will continue processing foreign applications for visas and US applications for passports, since fees are collected to finance those services. Delays, however are expected due to a shutdown. Embassies and consulates overseas will continue to provide services to American citizens.


Federal courts will continue to operate normally for about 10 business days after the start of a shutdown. If the shutdown continues after such a point, the judiciary would have to begin furloughs of employees whose work is not considered essential. Cases would continue to be heard, however, in such a case.

The US supreme court is scheduled to begin its new term on October 7. In previous government shutdowns, it continued to operate as normal.


Deliveries would continue as usual because the US Postal Service receives no tax dollars for day-to-day operations. It relies on income from stamps and other postal fees to keep running.

Homeland security

The majority of the Department of Homeland Security's employees are expected to stay on the job, including uniformed agents and officers at the country's borders and ports of entry, members of the Coast Guard, Transportation Security Administration officers, Secret Service personnel and other law enforcement agents and officers. US Citizenship and Immigration Services employees will continue to process green card applications.

Veterans services

Most services offered through the Department of Veterans Affairs will continue. Veterans will still be able to visit hospitals for inpatient care, mental health counseling, or get prescriptions filled at VA health clinics. Operators will still staff the crisis hotline and claims workers would still process payments to cover disability and pension benefits.

Those veterans appealing the denial of disability benefits to the Board of Veterans Appeals will have to wait longer for a decision because the board would not issue any decisions during a shutdown.

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