WASHINGTON – The federal government shut down early Friday morning for the second time in less than three weeks after Congress failed to pass a spending bill to keep the agencies running.
But this shutdown is likely to be short-lived – maybe just a few hours.
The government ran out of money at midnight Thursday when plans to pass a sweeping bipartisan budget deal hit a snag in the Senate, causing Congress to miss a funding deadline and triggering a partial government shutdown.
Sen. Rand Paul, a conservative Kentucky Republican and one-time presidential contender, temporarily blocked a Senate vote on the bill to lift strict budget caps and pave the way for lawmakers to spend an extra $300 billion over the next two years on defense and domestic programs. The deal is attached to a short-term spending bill that will fund the government through March 23.
Paul’s objection slowed the bill’s progress, but didn’t stop it altogether. His right to object will expire in the wee hours of Friday morning and the Senate is expected to pass the bill.
Congress and the White House had hoped to avoid another shutdown, especially coming less than three weeks after the government was shuttered for three days after lawmakers failed to pass a short-term spending bill.
But late Thursday, the Trump administration began advising federal agencies to get ready – just in case.
The Office of Management and Budget sent word to federal agencies that they should prepare for a “limited shutdown” of perhaps a few hours while Congress gives final approval to the spending bill.
A shutdown would be “a pain but hopefully not consequential,” said OMB communications director John Czwartacki.
Shortly after midnight, the office issued a memo advising agencies that funding had lapsed and that they should “now execute plans for an orderly shutdown.”
“Although we are hopeful that this lapse in appropriations will be of short duration, employees should report to work for their next regularly scheduled tour of duty to undertake orderly shutdown activities,” read the memo, first reported by ABC News.
The impact of another shutdown should be minimal unless it drags on for several days, said Stan Collender, a federal budget expert.
“There technically would be a government shutdown at midnight but no one would notice until about 9 o’clock the next morning,” Collender said. “They’ve got until the next morning before it would have an effect.”
As long as lawmakers and the Trump administration knew the impasse would be resolved by noon Friday or sooner, they would probably not close federal agencies or furlough workers, Collender said.
“They would probably tell everyone, ‘It’s going to get resolved, so plan on coming into the office anyway,’” he said.
And what effects will the public see?
“The answer is maybe nothing,” Collender said. “The Trump administration hinted with the last shutdown that they’d keep the national parks open… That’s really the most immediate impact. If the parks are open, then no one would notice” unless the impasse drags on past Sunday.
The federal government has been operating on short-term spending bills since October, as lawmakers have been unable to agree on a full-year spending plan. The bill pending in the Senate sets the overall numbers for a year-long bill and provides six weeks of funding to keep the government operating while Congress assembles the spending bill to implement the budget deal’s targets.
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