The U.S. government shut down at midnight after Congress failed to resolve a partisan standoff over immigration and spending. In a late-night vote, Senate Democrats blocked a bill that would have kept the government running for four weeks. (Jan. 20)
WASHINGTON – With a shutdown of the federal government beginning at midnight Friday, Michiganders may be concerned about what comes next.
But the visible effects of a government shutdown on everyday life in Michigan, for most residents, are likely to be minimal, at least for several days if not weeks.
Customs and border agents will still be working the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, Ambassador Bridge and other border crossings. Air traffic controllers will still be on the job at Detroit Metro Airport. Veterans Affairs hospitals will still be staffed.
And the Internal Revenue Service will still be collecting taxes — though if you have questions for them about the new tax law, you may be out of luck getting an answer until after the shutdown with more than half of the agency’s workforce to be sent home.
The cause of the shutdown? Congress couldn’t agree to a new short-term spending bill, one which would have lasted about four weeks, with most of the Democrats in the Senate — including Michigan’s Sens. Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow — and a handful of Republicans — refusing to support it.
Democrats have been pressing for Republicans in control of Congress to address the fate of so-called dreamers, undocumented immigrants who were brought into the U.S. as children who President Donald Trump says must be deported barring a new law.
Republicans in the majority have been pressing for another short-term funding bill — the federal fiscal year began Oct. 1 without an annual appropriation — and say Democrats are playing politics; Democrats, meanwhile, appear to believe this represents one of the few chances they will get to apply pressure to the Republicans to force an accommodation to pass a law protecting the dreamers.
It may all get effectively solved over the weekend or by early next week, in which case, the impact of a shutdown will be almost nil. But in case it doesn’t, here’s some information that could help make sense of the impacts in Michigan and elsewhere:
- First, even with a shutdown, Social Security benefits still go out, as will Medicare services, and benefits from programs such as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) and Women, Infants and Children (WIC) for at least as long as some carryover funding in the states or the federal accounts are available.
- The Post Office is funded separately so the mail will keep coming.
- The federal courts will remain open with officials saying there are still enough available funds to keep the courts open for three weeks at least.
- Some regulatory activities, such as auto defect investigations and developing new rules for autos, are suspended, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s shutdown contingency plan.
- While it’s not known exactly how many of the approximately 26,000 non-postal federal employees in Michigan would be told not to report for work Monday if the shutdown is still going, a number of them are expected to still be on the job, including a portion of the 9,200 or so people who are active duty military or civil employees for the Defense Department at the Detroit Arsenal, Selfridge Air National Guard Base and elsewhere. However — those people and elsewhere who are told to report will work without pay until the shutdown is settled, which for many employees is no small matter. In the 16-day shutdown in 2013, these people, as well as those who were furloughed, had to wait on Congress to restore their lost pay after the shutdown had ended.
- Food safety inspections continue but could be curtailed if a shutdown lingers. The same goes for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s ability to react to health emergencies. New grants for communities, such as those for Head Start and children’s welfare services, could also be delayed but that’s not likely to be seen unless it’s a lingering shutdown.
- Customs and border patrols are considered “essential,” so those agents will still be on the job, though, again, without pay until the shutdown has concluded.
- The Trump administration has said that national parks will remain open though it remains to be seen how long that will be the case, since they are generally not considered “essential” government functions. Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, however, said Friday that there may be more carryover funds to keep agencies operating for a time than was previously believed.
- The IRS, even as it wrestles with instituting a complicated new tax change passed by Congress last month, will send more than half of its workers home. It will keep collecting taxes during the shutdown, but taxpayer services — like staffing help lines and issuing refunds — would stop for the time.
- And if you’re planning a trip to Washington? Don’t necessarily count on the Smithsonian Institution or the National Gallery of Art being open. While the Smithsonian was expected to remain open through the weekend, it could close as early as Monday, the Washington Post reported.
Contact Todd Spangler: 703-854-8947 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @tsspangler.
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