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Visitors to most national parks and monuments such as Joshua Tree and Mount Rushmore can’t use the full-service restrooms and visitor centers, but the Statue of Liberty and the Grand Canyon will open as usual Monday.
As the U.S. government enters its third day of a shutdown, the Internal Revenue Service won’t be issuing refunds and will also stop conducting audits. But the mail will still get delivered, airport control towers will still be staffed and the border patrol will continue to guard the country.
In ways large and small, the shutdown that began at midnight Friday could touch almost every aspect of American life. Although, in some cases, states and charities are stepping in to provide funding for federal services to bridge the gap until Congress finds a way to fund the U.S. government.
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission will stop investigating new victim complaints and taking fresh action against suspected wrongdoers. The National Labor Relations Board will stop investigating charges of workers’ rights being violated. The Bureau of Land Management will stop issuing permits for oil and gas drilling. The Federal Aviation Administration will stop issuing approvals for drones. The Justice Department will suspend civil litigation. The government will stop issuing Social Security cards, and anyone trying to visit a U.S. military cemetery overseas will find themselves barred at the gate.
Over the weekend, some states said they would step in and pay federal workers to keep federal facilities open. New York state will fully fund National Park Service personnel and the $65,000 per day to keep the Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island open to visitors, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo said in a statement Sunday. In addition, Arizona officials said that state will ensure the Grand Canyon remains open for visitors — even if the federal government remains closed.
Meanwhile, the non-profit Fisher House Foundation has pledged to pay the families of two soldiers killed in a California helicopter accident Saturday government death benefits during the shutdown. Late last week, the Pentagon had said that it would suspend $100,000 death gratuity payments to the families of troops killed in the line of duty while the government was closed.
Agencies have no shortage of options for declaring some of what they do exempt from the shutdown. Government functions that don’t depend on annual appropriations from Congress, for example, activity financed by user fees or multi-year funds, will continue; so will activity that Congress has specifically exempted. Perhaps the largest exemption is any function deemed “necessary for the safety of human life or protection of property.”
Yet some of the Trump administration’s decisions on what services to exempt and what to close down were being questioned by those familiar with the Antideficiency Act, an obscure 134-year-old law that bars federal agencies from continuing to keep on many workers and services that cost money if they don’t have funding to pay them.
How long the shutdown will last is impossible to guess; so too is which party will take more of the blame. The Senate meets at 10 a.m. Monday and resumes consideration of a measure that funds the government through Feb. 8. The chamber will hold a procedural vote at noon. The House meets at noon and lawmakers have been told by Republican leaders that they will take up whatever bill the Senate sends over.
But for as long as it continues, the shutdown demonstrates the nearly endless ways in which the federal government has come to affect the economy, the financial sector, the workplace and the environment.
Parks & Public Lands
The administration is taking steps to mitigate the effect on national parks, which generally were closed in past shutdowns.
“National parks and other public lands will remain as accessible as possible while still following all applicable laws and procedures,” said Interior Department spokeswoman Heather Swift.
- The Trump administration is planning to keep some parks and concessions open. Most outdoor “wilderness-style restrooms,” like composting toilets and pits, and open roads should remain open; campgrounds, full-service restrooms and other services that require staffing and maintenance won’t be. Private concessionaires may be permitted to continue operations, provided they find a way to remove snow and trash without government staff.
- Any closures pose a threat to local economies that depend on tourism dollars tied to park visits — from the vendors inside the facilities to the hotels, stores, and restaurants outside of them. This is the peak season for some sites, including Death Valley and the Everglades. During the 2013 government closure, five governors agreed to pick up the tab and spend state dollars to reopen at least a dozen national parks.
- National forests will remain accessible, but are not officially open, said Agriculture Department spokesman Tim Murtaugh in an interview. Visitors centers will be closed and rangers will not be on the job. Still, law enforcement will continue to be present in the forests for visitors who enter at their own risk, he said.
The transportation system will function at close to its normal level, at least initially.
- The Federal Aviation Administration’s air-traffic division will continue guiding flights and the Transportation Security Administration will operate airport security checkpoints, according to the agencies’ plans.
- While FAA’s aviation safety inspectors will initially be furloughed, the agency’s plan is to gradually bring those employees back to work as they are needed to ensure airlines and other aircraft operators are safe, the agency said.
- The FAA will cease approvals for drone operations requiring waivers, development of new air-traffic technology and training new air-traffic controllers.
- A shutdown will slow work on the FAA’s certification of new aircraft. Work on approvals for two Boeing Co. models, which are expected to be completed within days, could be affected, said the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, a union representing FAA certification workers.
- The agencies monitoring the borders — Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement — are largely exempt from having to furlough employees during a shutdown.
- A majority of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s 560 employees will be sent home, as the agency suspends enforcement, defects investigations, rule-making work and some research efforts.
- Federal Transit Administration grants are to be halted, as are grants for high-speed rail projects administered by the Federal Railroad Administration.
- Most investigative work at the National Transportation Safety Board will cease; the agency can bring back teams temporarily to investigate accidents with “significant casualties” or that identify urgent risks, the agency said.
- Amtrak, the government-subsidized passenger train system, will continue normal operations, the railroad said on Friday.
- The State Department issued guidance on Friday saying that passport and visa services, as well as other agency functions, will stay open until the money runs out. Many bureaus in the department have reserves because they’re funded every few years or with money that can be saved indefinitely rather than spent within a year.