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

Republican Majority in Congress Off to Rough Start

Standoff over Homeland Security funding exposes philosophical, tactical problems within party More

Pakistan Blocks Baloch Activist from US Trip

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan slams Islamabad officials for stopping people from leaving country to attend human rights conference More

Video Muslims Long Thrived in North Carolina Before Students Killed

Idyll shattered February 10, when three Muslim university students living in Chapel Hill were gunned down by a neighbor 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.
Sierra Leone Ebola Orphans Face Another Crisisi
X
March 06, 2015 12:28 AM
There's growing concern about the future of an orphanage run by a British charity in Sierra Leone, after a staff member and his wife died this week from Ebola. The Saint George Foundation Orphanage in Freetown is now in quarantine, with more than 20 children and seven staff in lock-down. The BBC has agreed to share Ebola-related material with Voice of America because of the difficulties faced by media organizations reporting the crisis. Clive Myrie reports from Sierra Leone.
Video

Video Sierra Leone Ebola Orphans Face Another Crisis

There's growing concern about the future of an orphanage run by a British charity in Sierra Leone, after a staff member and his wife died this week from Ebola. The Saint George Foundation Orphanage in Freetown is now in quarantine, with more than 20 children and seven staff in lock-down. The BBC has agreed to share Ebola-related material with Voice of America because of the difficulties faced by media organizations reporting the crisis. Clive Myrie reports from Sierra Leone.
Video

Video Growing Concerns Over Whether Myanmar’s Next Elections Will Be Fair

Myanmar has scheduled national elections for November that are also expected to include a landmark referendum on the country's constitution. But there are growing concerns over whether the government is taking the necessary steps to prepare for a free and fair vote. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman was recently in Myanmar and files this report from our Southeast Asia bureau in Bangkok.
Video

Video Nigeria’s Ogonis Divided Over Resuming Oil Production

More than two decades ago, Nigeria’s Ogoni people forced Shell oil company to cease drilling on their land, saying it was polluting the environment. Now, some Ogonis say it’s time for the oil to flow once again. Chris Stein reports from Kegbara Dere, Nigeria.
Video

Video Winter Weather Strikes Eastern US...Again!

A new wintry blast has hit more than 20 states in the U.S. Midwest and Mid-Atlantic region, adding more snow to the piles from previous storms. Tired of shoveling snow, breaking the ice and dealing with accidents, flight delays and property damage, most Americans hope this is the last bout of cold for the season. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Students

The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Myanmar's Traditional Fashion Choices Endure

The sartorial choices of Myanmar’s men and women quickly catch the eye of any visitor to the tropical Southeast Asian country. But at a time when Myanmar’s political and economic opening is bringing affordable western fashions to the masses, will the country’s unique fashion trends endure? VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Yangon explores that question.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More