NEW YORK — The federal government was on the verge of shutting down Monday for the fourth time in the last decade.
Thursday at 11:59 p.m. is the deadline for Congress to agree on a government funding deal that would avert a shutdown.
The stalemate in Congress comes down to Senate Republicans blocking a vote to move forward with extending government funding. The GOP does not support Democrats using the funding resolution to extend the debt limit at the same time. Raising the limit usually gets bipartisan support.
So, what will happen if a deal is not struck?
In practical terms, some pandemic-related reopening progress could be stalled. National Parks would close, which would affect anyone with upcoming vacations inside the parks, and the White House warned its COVID-19 response could be impacted.
In New York City, the pandemic has already delayed most immigration-related activities because the courts were closed. A shut down would exacerbate the backlog.
Adam Tavares, an immigration lawyer, expressed frustration with the situation.
“It’s ridiculous that they can’t come together and come up with a plan,” he said. “There’s 1.3 million cases pending in court, so you can just imagine what will happen if this place shuts down.”
Hurricane relief is also tied up in the battle over government funding.
And there are thousands of tri-state area residents who work for the federal government. They may not get paid if the shutdown drags on.
However, not everything the federal government does will be impacted. Any work classified as essential — national security, public health and high-risk food inspection — will continue.
There are also some grey areas. Air traffic controllers and TSA agents will likely be expected to work without pay. During the 2018-2019 shutdown, some controllers stayed home, paralyzing air travel along the East Coast, especially at LaGuardia Airport.
The White House has made some contingency plans and warned any shutdown will have its costs.
“Having services shut down and staffing stop in any agency is not in the interest of any crisis we face, including the pandemic,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.
The quickest route to avoid the shutdown seems to be if Democrats drop the demand to raise the debt ceiling. Then, Republicans may get on board.
However, that would raise another potentially bigger issue. The federal government could begin defaulting on its bills by mid-October or early November, creating serious economic issues.