WASHINGTON — The specter of a shutdown is lurking in the nation’s capital, just in time for the holidays.
Congress has until midnight Friday to avert a partial shutdown by passing either a series of appropriations bills to fund the Department of Homeland Security and eight other federal agencies, or a stopgap spending measure to keep the agencies funded at current levels for a short period.
Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, introduced one such stopgap bill that would keep the government funded through Feb. 8 — and would punt the impasse over a southern border wall to the new year and a divided Congress. But there is no guarantee that President Trump will sign the bill, if it passes.
Mr. Trump has repeatedly said he would welcome a shutdown and once described it as a “great political issue.” While his unwavering dedication to building the wall might rev up his base, a shutdown will inconvenience hundreds of thousands of federal workers and ordinary citizens just before the holiday season.
Here’s what to expect if government funding expires on Saturday.
Nine federal agencies will close, and more than 420,000 people will work without pay.
The Treasury as well as the departments of Agriculture, Homeland Security, the Interior, State, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Commerce and Justice will all shutter if Congress fails to pass seven remaining spending bills, and hundreds of thousands of federal employees deemed “essential” — including correctional officers, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents and Weather Service forecasters — will be forced to work over the holidays without pay, according to data compiled by Senate Democrats.
With ninety percent of their personnel considered essential, the Department of Homeland Security will be hit the hardest. Nearly 54,000 Customs and Border Protection agents and 42,000 Coast Guard employees are projected to work without pay, and as travelers flood the nation’s airports and train stations, 53,000 T.S.A. agents will keep working, as will air traffic controllers and aviation and railroad safety inspectors.
Law enforcement officers at the Justice Department will also be expected to continue working over the holidays without pay, including nearly 17,000 correctional officers, 14,000 F.B.I. agents, and 4,000 Drug Enforcement Administration agents. And after a long year battling ferocious wildfires, about 5,000 firefighters with the U.S. Forest Service will also remain on duty.
Congress passed five spending bills earlier this year totaling nearly $900 billion of the $1.2 trillion in federal agency operating expenses. Those bills funded the departments of Labor, Energy, Defense, Health and Human Services, Education, Veterans Affairs and the legislative branch — so they will remain unaffected. Mandatory spending programs like Social Security and Medicare also will continue.
National Parks will likely close.
With funding for the Department of the Interior slated to expire, all 58 of the country’s national parks would shutter over the holidays. If you have Dec. 22 tickets for the famed Bracebridge Dinner at the sumptuous Majestic Yosemite Hotel, start thinking about alternative plans. Tourists visiting the nation’s capital would also find themselves shut out of many of the district’s headline attractions, including the National Zoo and Smithsonian museums, the National Gallery of Art and the National Archives.
The Smithsonian museum may have the funds to remain open, staff said in a tweet, but like many of the agencies set to be impacted, will update as the deadline approaches.
Another 380,000 workers will be furloughed.
Hundreds of thousands of workers will be sidelined as a result of the shutdown, unable to go into work and receive pay until their departments are funded, according to figures compiled by Senate Democratic Appropriations Committee staff. Almost 95 percent of the staff at both the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration will be furloughed, as will 86 percent — or nearly 41,00 people — of the Department of Commerce. Also furloughed: 52,000 staffers at the Internal Revenue Service.
Aspiring globe-trotters with old passports may be out of luck.
Funding for the State Department is also set to expire on Friday, which could throw a wrench in the plans of international travelers who suddenly realize their passport has expired or who are looking to get a new one. Visa and passport services will continue “as long as there are sufficient fees to support operations,” a department spokesman said, adding that passport agencies located in government buildings affected by a lapse in appropriations may become “unavailable to the public.”
Purchasing a new house may be harder.
The Federal Housing Administration will likely see significant delays in loan processing and approvals, meaning any new homeowners may be placed on standby, and payments to roughly 3,000 public housing agencies will be delayed.
“With each day the shutdown continues, we can expect an increase in the impacts on potential homeowners, home sellers and the entire housing market,” the agency previously warned in advance of a prior shutdown. “A protracted shutdown could see a decline in home sales.”