The U.S. Government Is Careening Perilously Close To A Shutdown

Dec 19, 2018
Originally published on December 19, 2018 10:26 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

The government is careening towards a possible shutdown. At least, parts of the federal government could shut down at the end of the week, although there are signs the White House might be open to compromise with Congress. President Trump had been demanding $5 billion for a border wall, but now White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders says the president would consider other proposals and that the administration is looking elsewhere for the money.

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SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS: We're looking at other areas where we can draw money from to make sure that the president can actually protect our border and protect American citizens.

GREENE: But the time is short. So what happens if the White House and Congress do not get a deal by Friday? Well, NPR Washington correspondent Brian Naylor joins us to talk about what could happen. Good morning, Brian.

BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: Hi, David. Good morning.

GREENE: Well, so what portions of the government are we talking about? I mean, could a substantial part of the government actually shut down here?

NAYLOR: Well, so it would be about a quarter of the government - nine cabinet departments, including Homeland Security, the Justice Department, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, and also dozens of smaller independent agencies, NASA and NOAA, the - you know, oversees the weather service. And the IRS.

GREENE: Wow. I mean, it might be one-fourth of the government, but those are pretty important agencies - Homeland Security, Justice, things like that.

NAYLOR: Right. Yeah. But the thing is, is that the essential services that these agencies perform will still be provided. So for instance, law enforcement agents at Customs and Border Protection and the FBI, DEA, ATF, they'll all still be on the job. And so, too, will the TSA officers who will be screening airline travelers during this busy travel season. And the national parks will be open. That's the good news. But if you're planning a trip, you might want to bring your own trail maps because the visitor centers won't be open, nor will restrooms. So that's something to consider.

GREENE: That is something to consider.

NAYLOR: And there could be some delays in processing, you know, FHA mortgage loans. So maybe not noticeable to most folks, but not insignificant, either.

GREENE: So if I'm flying and I see a TSA agent who's working despite the shutdown, are they, like, on the job getting paid as usual or is there something different?

NAYLOR: They're on the job, but they're not getting paid. All of the essential, so-called essential - the law enforcement agents will all be working without pay. That's about 400,000. Another 400,000 will be furloughed. So they will be told not to come in. And so, you know, this is not fun if you're a government employee. Christmas is coming on. Who wants to go without a paycheck? I spoke the other day to Jackie Simon with the American Federation of Government Employees. That's the biggest federal workers union. She said this isn't easy for federal workers.

JACKIE SIMON: Our members can't ever afford to go without a paycheck. They take home maybe $500 a week after taxes and all the other things that are taken out of their paychecks, and they've got to pay their rent. They've got to pay their car notes. And they live paycheck to paycheck.

GREENE: Wow. So Brian, I mean, we go through these shutdown debates - shutdowns, at least, threats of shutdowns. Does it start to take its toll on morale for employees who might be working without a paycheck?

NAYLOR: Sure. This is the third shutdown. If it if it happens, it would be the third this year. It's terrible for morale, and nobody wants to be, you know, a pawn in these disputes between Congress and the White House. There's uncertainty about, you know, your paycheck. And so it's not a good situation.

GREENE: NPR's Brian Naylor in our studios in Washington, D.C., this morning. Brian, thanks.

NAYLOR: Thank you, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.