It’s official: the government is now in a partial shutdown.
The December 21 deadline for funding a portion of the government, including the State Department, the Justice Department, the Transportation Department, the Agriculture Department, and the Department of the Interior, has come and gone — and lawmakers are still trying to figure out some kind of deal. (Other agencies have already been fully funded, including the Department of Health and Human Services.)
As things stand, Congress still needs to pass seven spending bills, including the contentious Homeland Security appropriations bill, which governs funding for border security and a potential wall.
Because many agencies have already been funded, only about a quarter of the government is affected, unlike previous wholesale shutdowns in January 2018 and October 2013. Still, hundreds of thousands of employees are expected to be furloughed and will likely receive back pay after the fact. Some services are set to come to a halt, and others will be cut back.
Here’s a rundown of some of the things that will and won’t be impacted by the partial shutdown.
What’s still running
Since roughly three-quarters of the government has been funded by existing bills, many services are set to remain intact. Other programs that have been classified as “essential” will keep running as well.
Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid
- Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are all slated to keep up their operations uninterrupted. All three programs fall under “mandatory spending” that the federal government has committed to — and are not affected by the annual appropriations process. (Medicaid also relies, in part, on state spending.)
- New applicants for these programs might face a wait, however.
The US Postal Service
- Post offices will remain operational and mail delivery will continue. As Rachel Wolfe has written for Vox, the USPS is funded by independent sources of revenue, including the sales of products and services — so it’s not impacted by any kind of shutdown.
Veterans hospitals and benefits
- The Department of Veterans Affairs has already secured its funding, so veterans hospitals will maintain their routine operations.
- Veteran disability pay and GI Bill benefits are funded by their own legislation separate from the annual appropriations bills, so those would stay consistent, according to Military.com.
- Active duty members of the military are exempt from shutdown furloughs, according to a contingency plan for the Department of Homeland Security. In the past, Congress has needed to pass separate legislation to ensure that members of the military are paid in a timely fashion during shutdowns. Otherwise, they could potentially see delays in their pay depending on if the shutdown extends past a certain payment cycle.
The Mueller investigation
- While special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference and the Trump campaign is under the purview of the Department of Justice, it will not be affected by any appropriations stalemate, since it has its own permanent source of funding, CNN reports.
- Border security is at the heart of the shutdown fight and much of the staffing for it is on track to remain intact even in the face of a partial shutdown involving DHS funding. US Customs and Border Patrol is classified as an “essential” service, so a majority of its employees are exempt from furloughs during the shutdown — though they could encounter lags in pay.
- As Bloomberg reports, “the overwhelming majority of border patrol, emergency management and immigration enforcement staff would be able to keep doing their jobs, though with their pay delayed.”
Air traffic control and TSA
- Air traffic controllers, who fall under the jurisdiction of the Federal Aviation Administration (which is under the Transportation Department umbrella) are deemed “essential,” and will keep working during a partial shutdown.
- Similarly, Transportation Service Administration agents are also considered “essential” so airline travel is not expected to see disruptions on this front, according to USA Today.
The federal judiciary
- The judiciary is able to maintain operations for a short period of time after funding runs out by using money it’s gathered from various courts-related fees including “funds derived from court filings,” according to the Congressional Research Service.
- In 2018, the judiciary said it had the wherewithal to keep its operations open for about three weeks, notes CRS.
- The city now has more autonomy over its budget and should be able to maintain most of its services, despite ties to federal appropriations.
- During the 2013 shutdown, city officials had to scramble to ensure that DC had the money it needed to remain operational, but since then Congress has approved measures to insulate the impact on the city in the event of a shutdown.
- The Smithsonian derives funding from the Interior Department, which has yet to be funded, but it announced on Friday that it will continue operations of its museums and the National Zoo through Jan. 1 by using funds from previous years.
In the event of a #GovernmentShutdown, our museums, research centers and the National Zoo will be OPEN through Jan. 1.
The Smithsonian can use prior-year funds still available to us to remain open. Smithsonian museums are always closed on Dec. 25.
— Smithsonian (@smithsonian) December 21, 2018
What could be affected by a partial shutdown
Every agency has its own contingency plan set up in case of a shutdown, and there are a couple bodies including the IRS and National Parks that could see some pauses or breaks in service. Additionally, as MarketWatch points out, the president has the ability to determine whether any service is “essential” or not — so it’s possible he could try to shut down a key government function like air traffic control if he really wanted to make a point.
- National parks — which are funded as part of the Interior Department — have long been one of the most visible government entities affected by a shutdown and they will remain open. Much like last January’s shutdown, many national parks are still accessible to visitors, but they will have limited staffing and closed access to various park facilities, including restrooms.
- A key body under the Treasury Department, the IRS has indicated that it plans to furlough a significant fraction of its workers under a contingency plan, since tax season has yet to get underway.
State Department services
- People will still be able to obtain passports and visas, although the State Department could curtail issuing them if those services are offered in buildings run by another agency that is shut down, Bloomberg reports.
Environmental and food inspections
- The Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration could both reduce the number of inspections they are conducting on hazardous sites and various food products, respectively.