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Economy: Government Shutdowns

Government departments are funded for certain periods of time.

If Congress and the president fail to pass a bill allocating money for a government department beyond that time, that department cannot pay its employees and effectively shuts down until a funding bill is enacted.,

In this section we write about times that parts of the federal government shut down.

Related Issues

Shutdown 2018

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No new craft beers during shutdown

2019-Jan-09By: Barry Shatzman

Beer makers will not be able to introduce new beers during the current government shutdown.

New beers require approval of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). But the TTB, being part of the Treasury Department, is shut down until funding is approved.

Some small breweries release new beers as often as weekly. And it usually takes at least a week for approval. Even if the shutdown were to end today, the backlog could stretch that to 45 days.

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Amid shutdown, will Trump officials get pay increase?

2019-Jan-06  (Updated: 2019-Jan-10)By: Barry Shatzman

As nearly a million federal employees prepare for their first missed paycheck due to the government shutdown, the shutdown has enabled high-ranking administration officials such as cabinet members to receive annual raises averaging around $10,000.

Administration officials are eligible for a pay increase as part of the schedule for all federal employees. Since 2013, however, Congress has been including a pay freeze for high-ranking officials each year in legislation. This year's freeze was included in a bill to continue funding for the affected departments. When that bill stalled in Congress, so did the pay freeze.

The officials are not expected to receive the pay increase during the shutdown. It is not known what will happen once the shutdown ends.

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The shutdown - what does it mean to you?

2018-Dec-24  (Updated: 2019-Jan-02)By: Barry Shatzman

Several federal departments with hundreds of thousands of employees have stopped operating, as Congress could not agree on a bill that would keep funding them.

Affected departments include...

What caused the shutdown?

These departments ran out of money on Dec. 21 when Congress could not agree on a bill that would have continued to fund them. Without new funding, the departments are not able to even to pay their employees.

On Dec. 19, the Senate passed a continuing resolution (CR) that would have provided temporary funding through the first week of February.

On Dec. 20, the House of Representatives also passed the bill. However, the House version added $5 billion to pay for a wall along the southern U.S. border. The Republican-led House was following the lead of President Trump - who had said he wouldn't sign a bill without this provision (though he oscillated back and forth on the matter).

Because both houses of Congress did not agree on the bill by Dec. 21, it couldn't be sent to the president, and the affected agencies shut down.

Almost a million government workers affected

About 800,000 government workers are affected. Approximately half of those employees are considered non-essential and will be furloughed without pay. The others - such as border patrol agents - are considered essential and will be required to work, though without pay for the time being. They most likely will receive back pay. Contractors - such as those who clean offices - are unlikely to receive back pay once the government reopens.

They all will feel the first big blow on Jan. 11 - when they likely will not receive their expected paycheck.

Rep. Scott Perry said he doubts that federal employees would be hurt by missing a paycheck. However, a 2017 survey revealed that almost 8 out of every 10 full-time employees live paycheck to paycheck.

Non-government Americans affected

Several national parks may remain open, but with limited or no service, such as bathrooms, visitor centers, and emergency services.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will stop operating.

The Federal Do Not Call Registry cannot be accessed to add your phone number or report a complaint about illegal telemarketing calls.

Programs such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and National School Lunch Program are funded through January. It is not known what will happen after that.

Funding for the Violence Against Women Act expired.


The 116th Congress begins its session on Jan. 3. Democrats, who will control the House of Representatives, have said they will propose a bill to fund the government without providing money for the border wall demanded by Trump.

Should both houses of Congress pass a bill without that funding (the Senate already did, but that expired at the end of this Congressional session), the decision then would rest on the president.

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Threatened government shutdown put on hold

2017-Apr-28By: Rob Dennis

A possible government shutdown was put off for at least a week as Congress approved a continuing resolution (CR).

The temporary bill that had been funding the federal government expires at the end of the month. To avoid a shutdown, Congress must pass a spending plan ? or keep extending current funding levels.

A shutdown appeared possible when President Trump said he would not sign a spending bill unless it included funding for his proposed border wall. He later backed down from that demand. Trump says he will request money for the wall in the budge for the upcoming fiscal year.

Estimates for the cost of the wall range from $21 billion to $70 billion.

Even though Republicans control both houses of Congress as well as the presidency, they need support from Democrats in order to pass the spending plan, which is subject to the 60-vote threshold of the filibuster in the Senate.

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Government shutdown was a tactic planned months ago

2013-Oct-13By: Barry Shatzman

You know the story. The federal government shut down most services on Oct. 1 because the House of Representatives could not agree on a budget for the new fiscal year.

Just one thing... it isn't the truth.

Top Republicans in the House and Senate said they would agree to a continuing resolution to keep government services running through December - as long as key parts of the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act (ObamaCare) were delayed by a year.

"The American people don't want a shutdown and neither do I.   I didn't come here to shut down the government," House Speaker John Boehner said on the House floor Sept. 30.

Yet documents show that the shutdown was a tactic planned more than six months ago by members of the Republican party as an effort to strong-arm the rest of Congress and the president to kill or delay the 2010 reform of health care insurance.

To read a letter published in February that outlines this strategy, click here.

For more, read the New York Times story.

For a view on how most of the major media has failed to report the situation accurately, read this Al Jazeera commentary.

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Bill preventing government shutdown has corporate perks


Congress has approved a temporary spending bill to avoid a federal government shutdown later this month and help diminish some of the impacts of the spending cuts from the "sequester." The bill will fund government activities for the next six months.

While the bill retained the sequester's $85 billion in spending cuts for this fiscal year, it gave the defense department and some other agencies the flexibility to cut specific programs rather than slashing their budgets across-the-board.

The Pentagon announced on March 21 that it will delay issuing furlough notices to civilian employees by two weeks while it evaluates the impact of the legislation.

The agriculture section of the bill prevented furloughs for thousands of meat inspectors by transferring $55 million from other agriculture programs.

A series of riders also were added to the bill.

o The Farmer Assurance Provision requires the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to override any court decision that would prohibit the planting and sale of crops from genetically modified seeds, if requested to by the corporation involved. This rider was added anonymously. For more on this, read the RT News story or this New York Daily News story.

o Another rider rescinded two regulations that provided transparency, disclosure and investment protections for farmers in their contracts with poultry companies.

o The bill also made permanent four gun-rights provisions, including one banning any federal rule requiring gun dealers to conduct physical inventories to determine whether firearms have been lost or stolen. For more on the gun provisions, read the New York Times story.

Meanwhile, the Federal Aviation Administration on Friday listed 149 air traffic control facilities at small airports around the country that will close starting early next month as part of the sequester cuts.

The bill was HR-933, Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act.

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