If Congress doesn't pass a spending bill by midnight Friday, the federal government will start shutting down Saturday, with most of the impact starting Monday. About 850,000 federal workers would be sent home without pay, or furloughed, though employees deemed "essential" would stay on the job without pay (in the last shutdown, Congress paid all federal employees retroactively). A shutdown wouldn't be pretty, especially if it lasted for more than a few days, and it would cost the government in ways big and small.
Things that wouldn't change: The U.S. Postal Service would deliver mail as normal, Social Security and Medicare would be unaffected, veterans would still get health care, and air traffic controllers, Forest Service firefighters, and FDA food safety inspectors would stay on the job. And "it's a stretch, at best, to think the military would bear the brunt of a partial government shutdown," as President Trump and other Republican leaders have argued, The Associated Press says. "All military members would be required to report for work as usual. Paychecks would be delayed only if the shutdown lasted beyond Feb. 1." The White House also wants to keep national parks and memorials open.
But the 850,000 employees not working will stall activities at most federal agencies, and that will cause some havoc. Most intelligence analysts would be furloughed, AP says, and 61 percent of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would be sent home during a bad flu season. The IRS would likely furlough thousands of employees as it tries to implement the new GOP tax law, and biomedical and public health research at the National Institutes of Health would grind to a halt, adversely affecting some projects. "Day 1, the world doesn't fall apart," J. David Cox, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, tells AP. But "things start to crumble" over time. Peter Weber