As deadline looms, a look at the local impact of a federal shutdown

From staff and wire reports

A divided House voted yesterday to prevent a government shutdown after an eleventh-hour deal brought conservatives aboard. But the GOP-written measure faced gloomy prospects in the Senate, and it remained unclear whether lawmakers would be able to find a way to keep federal offices open past a deadline of 9 tonight (Jan. 19) Pacific Time.

The House voted by a near party-line 230-197 vote to approve the legislation, which would keep agency doors open and hundreds of thousands of federal employees at work through Feb. 16. The measure is designed to give White House and congressional bargainers more time to work through disputes on immigration and the budget that they’ve tangled over for months.

Local impact

The shutdown’s effects would be felt locally at the U.S. Geological Survey facility in Menlo Park and at the Phleger Estate, part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area northwest of Woodside.

Two NASA spokeswomen at the Ames Research Center at Moffett Field declined to say how a federal shutdown would affect their facility.

Most of the nearly 500 employees at the USGS facility in Menlo Park would stop working if the federal government shuts down tonight, according to agency officials.

“We don’t like when we shut down. We would rather be working. But this is what’s legal and how our government works,” USGS spokeswoman Leslie Gordon told the Post.
Fewer than 70 USGS employees nationwide who are “needed for the protection of life and property” would be retained in the event of a shutdown, according to a contingency plan released to the agency in September.

That could include employees who monitor earthquakes or volcanic eruptions or those who feed animals in labs, Gordon said.

Gordon said the Menlo Park employees had been told to come in on Monday morning to close the campus down by setting up email responders and outgoing phone messages if the government is shut down at midnight tonight.

In the meantime, employees were told to keep an eye on the news to see how the Senate votes.

Phleger Estate

The Phleger Estate, a park northwest of Woodside that is the southernmost stretch of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, would be closed to visitors in the event of a government shutdown, according to an employee of the Presidio Visitor Center.

Of the 4.1 million people who work for the federal government, about 80% will still be expected to show up for work after a shutdown. A shutdown only means there’s no money for “discretionary spending,” the part of the federal budget that must be appropriated annually by Congress. But many federal employees are paid from sources other than appropriations.

Agencies that will stay open

For instance, the U.S. Postal Service will continue operating because it is funded through postage revenues.

Other workers deemed “essential” will remain on the job. That includes:

• 1.4 million active duty military personnel and about half of the Department of Defense’s 800,000 civilian employees;

• the Social Security Administration (the checks will go out on time);

• the Department of Homeland Security (including the TSA, Secret Service, ICE and Border Patrol);

• the Department of Transportation (including the FAA);

• the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (including VA Hospitals);

• and the Department of Justice (including the FBI, DEA, and federal prisons).

Agencies that will close include the National Park Service and the officials who process visas and passports.

House passage of the legislation was assured after the House Freedom Caucus reached an accord with House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. The leader of the hard-right group, Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., said Ryan promised future votes on extra defense spending and on a conservative, restrictive immigration bill. Meadows also spoke to President Trump.

But most Senate Democrats and some Republicans were expected to oppose the measure. Democrats were hoping to spur slow-moving immigration talks, while a handful of Republicans, including Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., were pressing for swifter action on immigration and a long-sought boost in Pentagon spending.

Senate rejection would leave the pathway ahead uncertain with only one guarantee: finger-pointing by both parties.

The GOP controls the Senate 51-49 and will need a substantial number of Democratic votes to reach 60 — the number needed to end Democratic delaying tactics. Republicans were all but daring Democrats to scuttle the bill and force a shutdown because of immigration, which they said would hurt Democratic senators seeking re-election in 10 states that Trump carried in 2016.

“If there’s a government shutdown — and let’s hope there’s not — it’d be the Democrats shutting it down,” said Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala.

Blame for the shutdown

Democrats said voters would fault Republicans because they control Congress and the White House and because Trump shot down a proposed bipartisan deal among a handful of senators that would have resolved the conflict over how to protect hundreds of thousands of young immigrants from deportation.

“You have the leverage. Get this done,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California said about Republicans.

Trump himself weighed in from Pennsylvania, where he flew to help a GOP candidate in a special congressional election.

“I really believe the Democrats want a shutdown to get off the subject of the tax cuts because they’re doing so well,” he said.

If the measure stalls in the Senate, the next steps were murky.

Barring a last-minute pact between the two parties on spending and immigration disputes that have raged for months, lawmakers said a measure financing agencies for just several days was possible to build pressure on negotiators to craft a deal. Also imaginable: lawmakers working over the weekend with a shutdown underway — watched by a public that has demonstrated it has abhorred such standoffs in the past.