Here's what would happen if Trump's border wall demands force a government shutdown

Jewel Samad/Getty ImagesThe US Capitol during the 2013 government shutdown.
  • President Donald Trump’s demands for US-Mexico border wall funding have pushed the US federal government to the brink of a government shutdown at midnight.
  • If the shutdown does occur, significant portions of the federal government would close temporarily.
  • About 800,000 federal employees would be affected, with 420,000 essential employees forced to work without pay and 380,000 employees placed on furlough.

After more than a year of threats, President Donald Trump appears ready to stand firm and force a government shutdown to try to secure funding for his long-promised wall along the US-Mexico border.

Congress is facing a midnight deadline Friday to pass a funding bill and avoid a partial federal government shutdown, leaving little time for lawmakers to resolve differences over Trump’s demands for $US5 billion toward a border wall.

Initially, the plan was to pass a short-term continuing resolution, or CR, that simply funded the government at current levels through February 8. While that bill passed the Senate on Wednesday, Trump rejected it after pushback from conservative pundits and members of the hardline House Freedom Caucus.


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That leaves Congress little time to find a plan to move forward and get a bill passed before the deadline.

So what would happen if there is no funding bill by Friday night? And who exactly is affected?


A limited government shutdown

Brendan Smialowski-Pool/Getty ImagesSenate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)

A shutdown is triggered when the Director of the Office of Management and Budget sends a memo to affected agencies to initiate their shutdown plans.

In the event of a full-on shutdown, many – but not all – federal agencies would face temporary shuttering:

  • Congress has already passed five of the 12 major funding bills that provide money for major agencies.
  • That includes the departments of defence, labour, health and human services, education, veterans’ affairs, and energy.
  • Those bills that already passed account for around 75% of all discretionary spending, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CFRB).

That still leaves many agencies in danger of shutting down. The list of departments in danger of closing includes: agriculture, commerce, justice, homeland security, the interior, state, transportation, and housing and urban development.


How will government employees be affected?

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty ImagesPresident Donald Trump

According to a research memo prepared by congressional Democrats, roughly 800,000 federal employees would be affected by the shutdown.

About 420,000 workers would be deemed essential and would work without pay throughout the duration of a shutdown, while the other 380,000 workers would be put on furlough.


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Certain departments would see larger numbers of furloughed employees, according to those agencies plans:

  • 95% of NASA employees
  • 95% of HUD employees
  • 86% of Commerce Department employees
  • 83% of Treasury Department employees

On the other end, only 14% of homeland security employees would be furloughed. Many of those employees deemed “essential” would be Border Patrol and ICE agents who are charged with protecting the US border. This would mean that those agents would work without pay until the shutdown ends.

While federal employees are not automatically repaid for missed wages, Congress typically passes legislation to give those workers back pay.

Lawmakers would still receive paychecks during a shutdown.


The history of shutdowns

Skye Gould/Business Insider

Since the budget process was overhauled in 1974, there have been 20 funding lapses.

While there are notable exceptions, most of these shutdowns have been short-lived. For instance, none of the eight shutdowns during Ronald Reagan’s presidency in the 1980s lasted more than three days.

The longest shutdowns include a 21-day shutdown from December 1995 to January 1996 and an 18-day shutdown from September to October 2013.

One thing that is unique to the two lapses in 2018 is the one-party control of Congress and the White House.

The three day shutdown in January marked the first time that the government shut down under one-party control since the 1979 shutdown under President Jimmy Carter. It was also the first shutdown under one-party control that resulted in a furlough of federal employees.

If a shutdown occurs at midnight, this would also be the first time since 1979 when three funding lapses occurred in one calendar year.

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