Mulvaney: Shutdown Chance 'Between 50 and 60 Percent'

OMB Director Mick Mulvaney conducts a press briefing on Friday with a shutdown looming. OMB Director Mick Mulvaney conducts a press briefing on Friday with a shutdown looming. Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

Speaking with reporters Friday morning, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said there was a better than average chance that Congress would not reach an agreement to keep the government open past midnight.

“I’m handicapping it now at some place between 50 and 60 percent,” he said. “But again, we’re planning for it as if it’s 100 percent. That’s what we do. We will run the government if a bill passes, we will run the government if a bill doesn’t pass.”

Mulvaney said that as OMB prepares for the possibility of a lapse in appropriations, the agency will operate differently than it did during the 2013 shutdown. He claimed that then-President Obama “wanted” a shutdown when House Republicans attempted to remove funding from implementation of the Affordable Care Act five years ago.

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“There’s no other way to describe it but the Obama administration weaponized the shutdown in 2013,” Mulvaney said. “They did not encourage agencies to use carry-forward funds, funds that they were already sitting on, nor did they use transfer authorities that they could have that would have made the shutdown much less impactful. They chose to make it worse, and the only conclusion I can draw is that they did so for political purposes.”

When asked for specific examples about how the shutdown would operate differently, Mulvaney said national parks would remain open.

“The way it works is the parks are opened, especially if services are provided by third parties, but things like the trash will not be picked up,” he said. “Fannie [Mae] and Freddie [Mac] will be open. The post office will be open. The [Transportation Security Administration] will be open, but all those people will be working for nothing, and that’s simply not fair.”

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the U.S. Postal Service, and TSA all remained operational during the 2013 shutdown as well. Obama Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, who oversaw the department during the 2013 shutdown, told The Atlantic that the Obama administration did try to keep some national parks open with limited staff but was told it would not be safe to do so as staff perform critical functions such as trash removal, cleaning bathrooms, preventing vandalism and guiding lost hikers.

On Thursday night, the House approved a four-week continuing resolution , which would provide government funding until Feb. 16 and included a six-year extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program. But Senate Democrats have vowed to block the bill, citing the need for additional extensions of programs like community health centers and the codification of protections for undocumented immigrants enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which is slated to expire March 5. Some GOP senators, including Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., also have announced they will vote against the House CR.

Mulvaney stressed that any shutdown would hurt public servants devoted to protecting the country.

“The military will still go to work, but they will not get paid,” he said. “The border will still be patrolled, but they will not get paid. Firefighters will still fight the fires out West, but they won’t get paid. There will be a bunch of different things compared to 2013, but don’t lose sight of the fact that we’ll be asking the military to work without pay.”

Essential federal employees and military personnel traditionally are paid immediately upon the government’s reopening following a shutdown. But in 2013, Congress passed a bill before the shutdown that ensured members of the military and support personnel saw no lapse in pay, regardless of whether the government stayed closed.

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