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

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    Factions Shift as Civilians Die in Syrian War

    Scenario likely only to further confuse military situation on ground and potentially worsen humanitarian crisis that already has grown to epic proportions

    Presidential Hopefuls Woo Minorities, Evangelicals

    Four GOP candidates to speak at forum at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina

    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.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.