News / USA

US Government Shutdown Q&A: Global Impact

The U.S. Capitol is reflected in an SUV parked outside the Capitol in Washington, September 28, 2013.
The U.S. Capitol is reflected in an SUV parked outside the Capitol in Washington, September 28, 2013.
— The U.S. government has shut down, and the world is still turning. Some government functions linking the United States to the rest of world will be affected, however, as will many domestic services. Here's a primer to better understand the crisis and its potential impacts.

1. How will a shutdown affect U.S.-global relations?

Consular Operations: U.S. consular operations overseas will remain operational as long as there are sufficient funds to support them, according to the State Department. That means the State Department will keep processing foreign applications for U.S. visas and passports, and providing services to U.S. citizens overseas as long as it can.

Consular Staff: The State Department will apply a furlough to Locally Employed Staff, including foreign nationals, depending on local labor laws in each country. In general, Locally Employed Staff will be required to a) report to work as directed by their supervisor, b) be given a paid absence, or c) be placed on ordinary furlough status.

Diplomacy: State Department travel will be limited to that necessary to maintain foreign relations essential to national security, or dealing with emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property. So, for example, travel will be allowed for the negotiation of major treaties and for providing essential services to refugees, but not to give an inspirational speech at a foreign university.

Green Cards: Most employees working for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will stay on the job, which means applications for U.S. green cards, or legal permanent residency, should continue as usual. USCIS is funded primarily from fees people pay for immigration services and benefits, which means its employees are not dependent on Congressionally-approved appropriations bills.

Homeland Security: The Department of Homeland Security’s Procedures Relating to a Federal Funding Hiatus designate about 86 percent of its more than 200,000 employees as “essential” for the “safety of human life or protection of property.”

Work will continue as usual for most Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection employees, airport screening officers, U.S. Secret Service agents, and other people in passenger processing and cargo inspection at ports of entry and the detention of drug traffickers or undocumented immigrants. The E-Verify system is not considered essential, however, so businesses will not be able to electronically check the immigration status of job applicants.

Military Operations: The military’s 1.4 million active-duty personnel will stay on duty, although they will be paid later. About 400,000 people, half of the Defense Department's civilian employees, will be sent home without pay.

Tourism: Foreign tourists taking a U.S. vacation might be disappointed if they were planning on trekking through the Grand Canyon in Arizona or the National Zoo in Washington. The rangers who run these sites are considered “non-essential” federal employees, so the national parks will be closed.

2. What economic impacts could there be on the U.S. and the world?

If the shutdown lasts a few days, any financial hardship would be felt mostly by furloughed workers.

If the shutdown lasts a few weeks, tourism revenues could slip and consumers and businesses might think twice before spending. 

If the shutdown is followed by a default on the federal debt, which could happen in a month if Congress does not act, foreign investors would really start to worry about the strength of the U.S. economy. They could lose confidence in the U.S. ability to pay back loans, triggering higher interest rates from foreign lenders. Even worse, foreign investors may not feel confident buying U.S. bonds. 

3. Why has the U.S. government shut down?

The government is like a car. Its fuel is money. If the car isn’t refueled, it stops running. The U.S. Congress is responsible for refueling that car, and it does that by passing spending bills. The new budget year begins on Tuesday, and Congress is nowhere close to agreeing on spending laws. As a result, the government, without funding, will slow to minimal speed.

4. Why can’t lawmakers agree on a spending bill?

The Republican and Democratic Parties disagree on a plan to provide health care insurance to millions of uninsured Americans. Republican members of the House of Representatives don't like the plan, known as Obamacare, and are refusing to sign an appropriations bill that includes funding for it. Democratic members of the Senate are refusing to sign a spending plan that does not fund Obamacare.

5. Has this happened before?

Yes, the government has shut down 17 times since 1977. The last shutdown was the longest, lasting 21 days from December 16, 1995, to January 5, 1996.

6. How will the shutdown proceed this time?

Federal agencies are alerting their staff as to who is furloughed and who is excepted from the furlough. Staff will continue working if their activities are considered essential to national security, or protect life and property. Everyone else will be furloughed, going home without pay. Excepted or "essential" employees will be paid, but only after an appropriations bill is passed.

7. How many U.S. government workers could be furloughed?

Nearly 2.2 million people work for the federal govenment, excluding uniformed members of the military and U.S. Postal Service career employees, according to the Office of Personnel Management. Of the 2.2 million, approximately 800,000 are considered "non-essential" and could be sent home without pay, according to The Washington Post.

8. Can a furloughed worker work?

They could, but there would be consequences. Technically, it’s illegal for a government worker to perform any of their duties during a shutdown. That even includes checking work email.

Clarification: The updated version of this article uses the most recently available OPM federal workforce numbers, set at approximately 2.2 million.

You May Like

Uganda Court Annuls Anti-Gay Law

Court says law was passed in parliament without enough members present for a full quorum More

Video Thailand Makes Efforts to Improve Conditions for Migrant Laborers

In Thailand, its not uncommon for parents to bring their children to work; one company, in-collaboration with other organizations, address safety concerns More

In Indonesia, Jihad Video Raises Concern

Video calls on Indonesians to join Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: robert calmus
October 01, 2013 3:12 PM
Once again, USG workers are turned into political pawns by a few members of congress who define their responsibilities as uncompromising dictatorship. How many times has congress voted to accomplish this action unsuccessfully during the last year while being exempt from the same rules/results. George Orwell's fiction was predictive truth -- Some are more equal than others. How about holding congress to the same rules - cut off their salaries/funding during the same time period...oh, I forgot...most of them are wealthy and need no salary. Can you spell arrogance and incompetence?


by: Qudratullah from: Bannu
October 01, 2013 11:12 AM
Pay for afghans and taleban and leave Americans at the mercy of God.


by: Tina from: WI
October 01, 2013 8:06 AM
Yes people on SSI or SSD will receive their checks.


by: Angela Moreland from: Sparrows point, MD
October 01, 2013 1:50 AM
What does this mean for those who are on Disability? Will we still receive our benifits? What does this mean for those on SSI, Will we be forgotten?


by: jessica from: hueytown
September 30, 2013 10:58 PM
So what will people do that have checks will they still get them this.mont r what

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborersi
X
Steve Herman
August 01, 2014 6:22 PM
Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborers

Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video Public Raises its Voice on Power Plant Pollution

In the United States, proposed rules to cut pollution from the nation’s 600 coal-fired power plants are generating a heated debate. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, charged with writing and implementing the plan, has already received 300,000 written comments. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, another 1,600 people are lining up this week at EPA headquarters and at satellite offices around the country to give their testimony in person.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

The public in China is welcoming the Communist Party's decision to investigate one of the country's once most powerful politicians, former domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang. Analysts say the move by President Xi Jinping is not only an effort to win more support for the party, but an essential step to furthering much needed economic reforms and removing those who would stand in the way of change. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.

AppleAndroid