Va. Senator Asks Watchdog to Gauge Cost of Shutdown

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va. J. Scott Applewhite/AP File Photo

The Herculean task of placing a dollar amount on the damage from the October government shutdown will likely be tackled by the Government Accountability Office, according to Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., who requested the audit Oct. 24.

Though Standard and Poor’s has estimated the 16-day shutdown’s cost to the U.S. economy at $24 billion, the only figure on the cost to the federal treasury was put out on Oct. 1 by IHS, a global market research firm. IHS projected the cost at $300 million a day.

Warner, who chairs the Senate Budget Committee’s bipartisan Government Performance Task Force, wrote in a letter that he would like GAO’s estimate of the cost on “the overall U.S. economy, the federal workforce, federal agency operations and services, state and local governments, federal contractors and other private-sector businesses, as well as lost tax and fee revenues.”

GAO is still reviewing the request, a spokesman said.

Warner predicted the price of the 2013 shutdown will top the estimated $1.4 billion ($2.1 billion in today’s dollars) cost of the 1995-96 two-part shutdown, “especially when you consider lost revenue, service delays, and the impact of an already fragile, economy.” As chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Infrastructure, he asked for specific figures on the shutdown’s impact on multimodal infrastructure and shipbuilding.

Last Tuesday, the White House Council on Economic Advisers put out a report estimating that the shutdown cost the economy 120,000 private-sector jobs in the first two weeks of October and a 0.25 percentage point reduction in the annualized Gross Domestic Product growth rate for the fourth quarter. “These estimates very likely understate the full economic effects of the episode because of its effects that continued, and will continue,” the report said.

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