Shutdown Will Continue Monday, Triggering Furloughs for Hundreds of Thousands of Feds

Lights shine inside the U.S. Capitol Building as night falls in Washington, Sunday, Jan. 21. Lights shine inside the U.S. Capitol Building as night falls in Washington, Sunday, Jan. 21. J. David Ake/AP

Lawmakers on Sunday failed to reach a budget compromise that would allow federal agencies to return to normal operations on Monday following a funding lapse that took effect at midnight Friday.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., took to the floor Sunday night to announce that the chamber would vote on a continuing resolution to reopen agencies through Feb. 8. That CR would not include language on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, border security, extra military spending or disaster relief, allowing lawmakers to continue discussions on those issues. If no agreement on immigration were reached by the Feb. 8 deadline, then  McConnell said he would bring up legislation on it.

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McConnell attempted to schedule a vote on the Feb. 8 stopgap spending bill for 10 p.m. Sunday, but Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said no deal had been reached yet, and postponed the vote until noon on Monday, meaning that agencies will definitely remain closed at least for part of the day on Monday.

While lawmakers angled to score political points or shift blame, most agencies planned Monday to begin executing orderly shutdown procedures, per guidance from Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, but many questions remained. Federal employees who perform critical functions related to national security, public safety and health will continue to work during a shutdown, but they won’t be paid until after appropriations are restored, meaning if a shutdown drags on, their paychecks will be delayed. Decisions about whether staff and contractors who support those critical personnel are exempt from the shutdown are less clear. OMB said those questions should be handled by executives at agencies themselves.

All federal employees are expected to report to work Monday morning. Non-excepted workers will have three-to-four hours to complete their required shutdown actions before being sent home without pay. Agencies told employees of their furlough status late last week and issued formal notices over the weekend. For employees who are furloughed during the shutdown, Congress in the past has authorized back pay, and the White House has said it supports back pay for those affected.

The administration is seeking to limit the number of employees who would face an immediate furlough, senior administration officials told reporters Friday night, looking to keep agencies temporarily afloat with unobligated funds that remain valid when the current continuing resolution expires at midnight. Agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and Federal Communications Commission said they have sufficient carry-over funds to last about a week after a shutdown.

The Professional Services Council, a group that represents federal contractors, warned members that they could be significantly impacted by a shutdown, noting that companies’ agency contacts may be furloughed and contractors may not have access to some facilities, payments could be delayed and the government could even issue stop work orders.  

For more information, see Government Executive’s earlier coverage about who works and who doesn’t during the shutdown, what happens to pay and benefits during a shutdown and how the White House approach to using budget transfer authority is risky.

Erich Wagner and Eric Katz contributed to this report.

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