WASHINGTON ― The government shutdown is about to get a lot more visible.
Congress wasn’t able to come up with a deal to reopen the government Sunday, meaning the shutdown will extend to the third day on Monday ― the start of the work week.
Tourist spots like the National Zoo and the Smithsonian museums remained open over the weekend, but they will be closed on Tuesday, if the shutdown continues. Sightseers who haven’t been following the news will be left locked out and disappointed.
Thousands of federal workers will also be forced to go without pay. Some ― those who are deemed “non-essential” ― may have to show up for work Monday morning and then be told to go home. Others will have to work without getting paid.
While I’m not exactly thrilled about not being paid, at this point I want a real resolution. I don’t want even the small amount of anxiety this is causing me personally to be for naught. a Census Bureau employee
Congress has to pass legislation authorizing pay for employees who work during the shutdown, which it normally does. Still, some people are worried it might not happen this time.
“The biggest concern for most government workers is that we will not receive back pay once everything is resolved,” said one U.S. Department of Agriculture employee. “The president has to sign on for back pay. No guarantee with the current president.”
In 2013, the last time the government shut down, about 800,000 workers were furloughed. A similar number is expected to be affected this time.
Many federal workers who spoke with HuffPost say they have come to expect shutdowns at this point. Congress has been lurching from short-term spending bill to short-term spending bill, with the prospect of a shutdown constantly in the background. It is, unfortunately, the new normal ― even when one party controls the White House and has majorities in Congress.
“I have to say, while I’m not exactly thrilled about not being paid, at this point I want a real resolution. No more continuing resolutions,” said a Census Bureau employee. “No more waiting until later to do something for the Dreamers. No more delays in funding [the Children’s Health Insurance Program]. I don’t want even the small amount of anxiety this is causing me personally to be for naught.”
The shutdown is also affecting offices on Capitol Hill. One staffer said he and some others in his office were told they would be furloughed, which was frustrating considering other offices declared their entire staff to be “essential” and therefore able to work. The application of the furlough rules was similarly spotty in 2013. Some offices argue it’s important that they be able to respond to constituents during the shutdown, while others have said they should be following the same rules as federal agencies.
“I just want to come to work and serve our constituents in whatever limited way I can during a shutdown. I don’t care if my pay is delayed,” said the Hill staffer. “You would think a congressional office would want that attitude. Now I get why people hate the government.”
Federal workers have also expressed frustration at how little guidance they’ve received about the shutdown and how it will affect them ― a marked contrast to what happened in 2013, under President Barack Obama’s administration.
On Friday morning, for example ― just hours before the government shut down ― an official at the Federal Emergency Management Agency said her agency was working on its contingency plans. However, she also said the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of Management and Budget had ordered FEMA not to communicate those plans to other employees.
The administration didn’t want to look like it didn’t have faith in Congress to get the job done.
The Senate adjourned Sunday with no resolution, although a group of moderate senators in both parties has been working on a potential compromise: fund the government until Feb. 8 and promise to vote on immigration legislation before then. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) indicated Sunday that he backed such an agreement, giving hope to some lawmakers that the end could be near.
Many Democrats, however, are skeptical of once again delaying assistance for Dreamers ― the young undocumented immigrants whose protections were taken away by President Donald Trump ― and it’s not clear whether such an arrangement could get through the House.
Correction: This piece originally said the Smithsonian museums and zoo will be closed Monday. They will remain open Monday and then be closed thereafter.