Third Government Shutdown of 2018 Begins at Midnight

Third Government Shutdown of 2018 Begins at Midnight

Congress and the White House were not able to reach agreement on funding for President Trump’s border wall today. That means departments and agencies, including NASA and NOAA, whose FY2019 funding bills are not yet enacted, will shut down at midnight unless they have other sources of funding than appropriations, like fees or left over money from prior years.  This will be the third government shutdown of the year.  Its duration is unknown.

Senate Republicans thought they had a deal to keep the entire government operating until February 8, 2019 when they passed an extension of the existing Continuing Resolution (CR) on Wednesday night.  The deal fell apart yesterday when Trump changed his mind. Negotiations since then have not yielded a solution and those parts of the government whose appropriations have not been enacted into law already will shut down at midnight tonight until another appropriations bill is enacted.  The exceptions are agencies who have other sources of funding, like fees or money left over from prior years who may be able to continue operations in the short term.

The agencies who activities are impacted by the shutdown are those funded by seven of the 12 regular appropriations bills, including NASA and NOAA.  Those funded by the other five bills — including DOD — are not impacted because their FY2019 appropriations bills already have been signed into law.  Here is the current state of play on FY2019 appropriations bills.

The five bills already enacted cover 75 percent of discretionary government spending.  The remaining seven bills, shown in the table as “In Conference” or “Awaiting Action in House or Senate” consume the remaining 25 percent and affect about 800,000 government employees.  Many of them are essential personnel, such as those who work at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), part of the Department of Homeland Security, and will have to continue working without pay.  In past shutdowns, Congress has paid workers retroactively, but it is not guaranteed.

The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) advised agencies that it hopes the shutdown will be short, but employees should report for duty when scheduled to undertake shutdown activities.

Most Federal employees already have been excused from work on Monday and Tuesday for the Christmas holidays, so the impact will be felt after that.

Among the departments and agencies affected by the shutdown are:

  • NASA
  • National Science Foundation
  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • Food and Drug Administration
  • Department of Commerce, including NOAA
  • Department of State
  • Department of Justice
  • Department of Agriculture
  • Department of Transportation
  • Department of Housing and Urban Development
  • Department of the Treasury
  • Department of the Interior, including USGS

NOT affected are DOD, the Department of Labor, the Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Education, Department of Energy, Department of Veterans Affairs, and Congress itself (funded by the Legislative Branch appropriations bill).  Their appropriations bills were enacted into law before FY2019 began on October 1.

How long this shutdown will last is anyone’s guess.  A shutdown in January lasted three days.  Another in February was for only 8.5 hours.

Agencies are required to have shutdown plans.  NASA’s current version is dated December 18, 2018.  In brief, these are the functions that will continue:

NOAA is part of the Department of Commerce, whose shutdown plan was updated on December 17, 2018. Among the services and activities that continue during a shutdown are “Weather, water, and climate observing, prediction, forecast, warning, and support,” which would apparently include operation of NOAA’s weather satellites.

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