Shutdown hits as Hill leaders and White House negotiate

Fiscal cliff (Photo by MrIncredible/Shutterstock) 

A significant portion of the government shut down at midnight last night, as the House and Senate adjourned without reaching agreement on a new spending bill.  Lawmakers are now waiting on a negotiated deal between legislative leaders and President Donald Trump to fund the Departments of Homeland Security, Treasury, Commerce, State, Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture and Interior, as well as the General Services Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency and various smaller agencies.

A Senate "motion to proceed" for a House bill -- a continuing resolution through Feb. 8 that included $5.7 billion in wall funding -- was held open for a record five hours and 18 minutes on the afternoon of Dec. 21 and ended in  48-47 vote. But instead of proceeding to a cloture motion requiring 60 votes -- which would certainly fail -- lawmakers opted to wait for a deal.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said on the floor in the late afternoon of Dec. 21 that the Senate would not vote "until a global agreement is reached" to fund the government.

The dispute continues a running political battle over funding for a proposed border wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. President Donald Trump and conservatives in the House of Representatives are demanding such funding as a condition passing a broader spending bill, while House and Senate Democrats are refusing to support wall funding.

Alternatives to the House-passed continuing resolution include passing a very short-term continuing resolution to the passage of full appropriations bills. The House and Senate already passed appropriations bills funding about 75 percent of government operations, as measured in dollars. 

An estimated 800,000 federal employees work at the shuttered agencies. About 400,000, including more than 210,000 at DHS, are considered essential and are required to work without pay during the period of a lapse in appropriations. These include border and airline security personnel, as well as Secret Service agents.

Affected agencies held furlough meetings with employees on Dec. 23 to spell out orderly shutdown procedures. These guidelines vary from agency to agency, but typically involve a caution not to power up a government-issued computer or smartphone during the period of the shutdown, and a requirement for workers to change outgoing phone messages to reflect the lapse in appropriations.

The Office of Management and Budget released updated instructions for agencies covering payroll procedures, leave and orderly shutdown procedures.

Before adjourning on Dec. 21, the Senate also passed a bill sponsored by Maryland Democrats Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen to guarantee back pay for furloughed feds.   

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


  • Workforce
    Shutterstock image 1658927440 By Deliris masks in office coronavirus covid19

    White House orders federal contractors vaccinated by Dec. 8

    New COVID-19 guidance directs federal contractors and subcontractors to make sure their employees are vaccinated — the latest in a series of new vaccine requirements the White House has been rolling out in recent weeks.

  • FCW Perspectives
    remote workers (elenabsl/Shutterstock.com)

    Post-pandemic IT leadership

    The rush to maximum telework did more than showcase the importance of IT -- it also forced them to rethink their own operations.