Annual funding for the U.S. government will expire on September 30th. It’s up to Congress to pass a bill to fund the government past October 1st. But the two major political parties are at odds, and a government shutdown could occur. In that case, only essential government employees would report to work. And many popular tourist spots would close.
Every week after pre-school, Jack walks here to the National Zoo to watch the elephants.
Jack’s nanny, Kim Hazelton, doesn’t know what they'll do if a government shutdown closes the zoo.
“I’m sure that it would be a total disaster every single day because that’s the first thing he asks for. He wants to come and see the animals," said Hazelton.
Should a shutdown occur, none of these people would be seen on the sidewalk here at the zoo. Only essential zookeepers would be allowed in, to feed and take care of the animals.
The National Zoo is part of the world’s largest museum complex - the Smithsonian Institution, which is funded by the government. Entry is free - but the Smithsonian relies on concessions for extra money, and they - and the museums - will be closed during a shutdown. The Smithsonians' Linda St. Thomas.
“It will be tough for visitors, particularly ones who don’t check in advance and just come and see a sign on a door," said St. Thomas.
Like the shutdown in the mid 1990s, work would continue on national security, air traffic control, food safety, in banking and prisons.
But no visa or passport applications would be processed. There would be no new clinical research. The national parks would close, and millions of tourists would be shut out.
The nation is still recovering from budget cuts called sequestration, when half of all government employees were furloughed for up to six days.
Stephen Fuller directs the Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University. He says a shutdown would have an added effect on the economy.
“The debt ceiling, what are they going to do about that? And, whether the sequester will continue into next year and then you put right in the middle of that, we are going to shut down government too? All together this becomes very impactful," said Fuller.
Congress could push to the deadline final action to fund the government after midnight, October first. The Republican-led House of Representatives is seeking a way to defund President Obama's health care reform, which has set up a stand off with the Democratic majority in the Senate.
Francoise Porch from California doesn’t have faith in the legislators.
"And we want to show the world how to run a democracy? Excuse me! Elect some smarter people," said Porch.
Fuller says the threat of a shutdown already is slowing the economy because consumers are hesitant to buy, too worried that they might not have a job to go to on October 1.