Sunday, 18 February 2018

What does the US government shutdown mean? Your questions answered

The U.S. government shutdown began at midnight Friday as Democrats and Republicans failed to resolve a standoff over immigration and spending. Here’s a look at what the parties are fighting over and what it means to shut down the government.

WHAT ARE LAWMAKERS FIGHTING ABOUT?

Since the end of the fiscal year in September, the government has been operating on temporary funding measures. The current one expired at midnight. Republicans and Democrats have not been able to agree on spending levels for the rest of the year, so another short-term measure is the most likely solution. The House has passed a four-week bill Thursday that also extends funding for a children’s health insurance program. Also Read: Congress fails to overcome standoff over spending, immigration

But Democrats have been saying for weeks they want a funding measure to be tied to an immigration deal that protects the thousands of young immigrants facing deportation. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is set to expire March 5, and members of both parties have been working on an extension that would also beef up border protection.

That deal has not come together, and Democrats have decided to dig in. They blocked the House-passed bill. Both sides were still negotiating early Saturday.

THEY’VE BLOWN THE DEADLINE. NOW WHAT?

The government begins to shut down. But not all of the government.

The air traffic control system, food inspection, Medicare, veterans’ health care and many other essential government programs will run as usual. The Social Security Administration will not only send out benefits but will also continue to take applications _ though replacements for lost Social Security cards could have to wait. The Postal Service, which is self-funded, will keep delivering the mail. The Federal Emergency Management Agency will continue to respond to last year’s spate of disasters. Also Read: What happens in a US government shutdown?

The Interior Department says national parks and other public lands will remain as accessible as possible. The stance is a change from previous shutdowns when most parks were closed and became high-profile symbols.

Spokeswoman Heather Swifts says the American public _ especially veterans who come to the nation’s capital _ should find war memorials and open-air parks open to visitors. Swift says many national parks and wildlife refuges nationwide will also be open with limited access when possible.

The Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo will stay open through the weekend but close Monday.

DO FEDERAL WORKERS GET PAID?

While they can be kept on the job, federal workers can’t get paid for days worked during a lapse in funding. In the past, however, they have been repaid retroactively even if they were ordered to stay home.

Rush hour in downtown Washington, meanwhile, becomes a breeze. Tens of thousands of federal workers are off the roads.

HOW OFTEN DID THIS HAPPEN IN THE PAST?

Way back in the day, shutdowns usually weren’t that big a deal. They happened every year when Jimmy Carter was president, averaging 11 days each. During Ronald Reagan’s two terms, there were six shutdowns, typically just one or two days apiece. Deals got cut. Everybody moved on.

The last one was a 16-day partial shuttering of the government in 2013, which came as tea party conservatives, cheered on by outside groups like Heritage Action, demanded that language to block implementation of President Barack Obama’s health care law be added to a must-do funding bill.

Associated Press

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