The causes and effects of government shutdowns


Janie Gleaves

In the past few months, government shutdowns have made headlines twice. A three day shutdown took place starting on midnight of Jan 19. Another happened less than a month later: Feb 8.

How does this happen? On Sept 30 of every year, Congress budgets its money for the following fiscal year. If that doesn’t happen or cannot be agreed upon, Congress enacts a continuing funding resolution, essentially a short term budget plan instead of a long-term one. If Congress cannot agree on a short term solution, or if they run out of money in the current plan, a shutdown ensues.

However, in the past, both parties have “hijacked this process to get what they want in the government funding,” said AP Government teacher Mr. Joe Milharcic. A party will not agree to new funding unless they can get what they want out of it. “For exampl, Democrats may not agree until more money is given to social programs and Republicans won’t agree unless more money is given to the military,” said Mr. Milharcic. This is essentially what happened in the January shutdown. Senate failed to pass a continuing resolution because Democrats held out for more protection towards immigrants eligible for DACA. Some senate Republicans also voted “no” to passing the bill because they wanted a more permanent solution.

Republicans agreed to continue discussion on DACA, a continuing resolution was passed and the shutdown ended. The continuing resolution ended budget planning on Feb 8. On Feb 9, the government shutdown again. The two-year spending bill in question was passed and the shutdown ended five and a half hours later.

A government shutdown halts all non-essential federal programs. New passports stop being made, gun licenses stop being issued, and national parks close. These employees are placed on “furlough.” They stay home and are not paid for their work, however after the 2013 government shutdown, most employees were paid for these hours after the fact. The military is considered essential and would not shut down. However, they would not be paid if the current funding does not allow room for it. Considering that most shutdowns only last a few days, the impact is not extremely significant for most.

“Most citizens won’t feel the impact of a government shutdown unless they depend on the federal government directly for something on a regular basis,” said Mr. Milharcic.