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Who Stops Working When The Government Shuts Down

Jan 20, 2018
Originally published on January 21, 2018 6:02 am
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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Government shutdown is partial. And as NPR's David Schaper reports, many government functions will continue.

DAVID SCHAPER, BYLINE: I'm standing at a security checkpoint in Chicago's O'Hare airport, and passengers are lined up to go through screening as they would on any other day. The TSA officers here are considered essential government employees and are still working. Customs agents are working, too, as are air traffic controllers who guide the planes. White House budget director Mick Mulvaney explains what other government workers are considered essential.

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MICK MULVANEY: The military will still go to work. They will not get paid. The border will still be patrolled. They will not get paid. Folks will still be fighting the fires out west. They will not get paid. The parks will be open. People won't get paid.

SCHAPER: Those parks are only open for as long as possible, and a statement from the National Park Service doesn't elaborate on how long that could be. And some park services may be limited. And to be clear, working federal employees will eventually be paid - sometime after the shutdown ends. About those military operations, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says yes, active military personnel will be working. But...

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JIM MATTIS: Over 50 percent, altogether, of my civilian workforce will be furloughed. And that's going to impact our contracting. It'll impact, obviously, our medical facilities.

SCHAPER: And the military personnel who are working will not have all of the support that they're used to.

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MATTIS: The submarine that put to sea last week will still be out for three months. And - God bless them - the lads will not have any email connectivity, so they will not even know what's going on as they cruise quietly out there carrying out their duties.

SCHAPER: Post offices will be open, and the mail will continue to be delivered during the shutdown. Social Security checks will still go out, and Medicare will be unaffected. As for the federal courts...

RUBEN CASTILLO: The courts will not shut down.

SCHAPER: Chicago's U.S. District Court Chief Judge Ruben Castillo.

CASTILLO: This, unfortunately, does not come as a surprise to us. So we have some contingency funds that will let us fully operate until about February 9.

SCHAPER: But Castillo says the only Justice Department lawyers working will be those handling criminal cases. So civil matters may have to be delayed. And if the shutdown continues and the contingency funds run out, he and other chief judges across the country will need to figure out which court employees to furlough. He says just the threat of this shutdown hurt employee morale.

CASTILLO: Yeah, it's demoralizing. It's demoralizing. You feel like Congress has forgotten about you as they're in political warfare.

SCHAPER: Judge Castillo says as the budget battle drags on, it's federal employees and the Americans who count on them who become collateral damage.

David Schaper, NPR News, Chicago.

(SOUNDBITE OF BROKE FOR FREE'S "HIGH HOPES") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.