Government shutdown: How does it work and will Trump’s border wall fight derail resolution negotiations?

Robert Mueller’s investigation is considered exempt from a potential shutdown

Chris Riotta
New York
Monday 03 December 2018 19:47 GMT
Maxine Waters on Trump's threat of government shutdown

Politicians are grappling with Donald Trump’s demands to add $5bn (£3.9bn) to a spending bill that would avoid a looming government shutdown — with just five days left before the current funding package expires.

With a partial government shutdown expected for Friday, Republicans are racing against the clock to create a stop-gap funding measure that would extend the deadline for another week while catering to the president’s demands, CNN reports.

That would allow the government to effectively remain open throughout the entirety of former president George HW Bush’s funeral proceedings, as Congress will be out of session temporarily this week in observance of the national day of mourning.

Still, the vast majority of the Democratic Party has strongly rebuked Mr Trump’s demands for border wall funding in past spending bills, and appears set for another showdown with the president ahead of the holiday season.

So what happens if the government shuts down?

As politicians reportedly devise a bill that would provide $5bn (£3.9bn) in funding for Mr Trump’s border wall over the next two years, it remains unclear whether the package will receive enough Democratic votes to make it through the Senate.

If Congress cannot find a resolution by Friday and does not request a temporary extension from the president to resolve negotiations, a partial shutdown will become effectively immediately.

Due to a major spending bill the government passed ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, the potential upcoming shutdown would be limited to a handful of agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security.

However, Mr Trump has signalled he would be willing to pass a temporary extension in order to avoid the drama and hassle of a government shutdown as the nation remembers its 41st commander in chief.

“If [congressional leaders] come to talk about an extension because of President Bush’s passing, I would absolutely consider it and probably give it,“ the president said on Air Force One over the weekend.

During a typical government shutdown, federal employees of agencies considered nonessential cease working until politicians are able to agree on a funding bill. Those employees are placed on furlough, allowing retroactive repayment for the days they were forced off the job.

A shutdown impacts daily life for US citizens in a multitude of ways, essentially restricting travel and closing off national parks, among other issues.

Agencies providing small business loans and processing passport applications are typically shutdown amid federal government closures.

According to data provided by the Office of Management and Budget, nearly 850,000 employees were furloughed each day at the height of the government shutdown in 2013.

While most of the fundamental aspects of the federal government continue normal operations — including the US military — the employees are typically left unpaid. For example, soldiers in combat have seen their paychecks withheld in previous shutdowns, only to receive their retroactive payments upon the passing of a spending bill.

Fortunately for special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, Mr Trump’s potential shutdown over the border wall will have no tangible effects on his ongoing investigation.

“All employees with the Special Counsel’s Office are considered exempt and would continue their operations in the case of a lapse in appropriations,” a spokesperson for the special counsel said in a statement.

The president warned against the federal government going into a shutdown earlier this year, writing on Twitter: “The biggest loser will be our rapidly rebuilding Military, at a time we need it more than ever”.

He falsely claimed the Democratic Party wanted a government shutdown “over Amnesty for all and Border Security”.

Support free-thinking journalism and attend Independent events

Senate democratic leader Chuck Schumer has said he is willing to agree on a government spending bill that would provide billions for border security and additional funding to the Department of Homeland Security, as part of a continuing resolution that would effectively provide another year of funding to the federal government.

“We don’t believe in shutdowns,” House democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said Friday.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in