WASHINGTON (Good Politic) – The government's closure is wreaking havoc among many Americans: hundreds of thousands of federal employees do not know when they will see their next salary, and low-income people who depend on the federal safety net I'm worried I'll make ends meet if the stalemate in Washington continues in a month.
But if you are a sportsman looking to hunt game, a gas company that is planning to break into the country or a taxpayer waiting for your refund, you're in luck: this closure will not affect your projects.
All jurisdictions have room to choose which services to freeze and which ones to maintain when a budget impasse in Washington forces some agencies to close. But during the selective reopening of offices, experts say they are willing to take valuable steps and abandon previous plans and move into a legally dubious territory to ease the pain. Some pointed out that the choices seemed to be aimed at protecting Republican voters that Trump and his party had to respect.
The cumulative effect is a government shutdown – now officially the longest in US history – that some Americans might find financially destabilizing and others might barely notice.
Russell T. Vought, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, said Trump's fundamental message was "to make this closure as painless as possible, according to the law."
"We built on past efforts within this administration to ensure that the blockage is not used as a weapon against the American people," he said.
Others say that such a strategy suggests a lack of urgency and a willingness to let Washington's political stalemate linger indefinitely.
"The strategy seems to be to keep the closure in place, without worrying about the consequences for employees, licensees and contractors, but to leave the public bored, give a little," said Alice Rivlin, who led the CAM stop of the day in 1996, the previous recordholder for the longest in history.
This is a clear difference between yesterday and today, Rivlin said.
"We were not trying to make it better. We were trying to focus on pain so that it was over, "she said. "We wanted it to end. I am not convinced by the Trump administration. "
The Trump administration announced earlier this week that the IRS would issue tax refunds when the market closes, bypassing the 2011 ruling barring the agency from distributing refunds until the Treasury American be financed. The National Union of Treasury Employees has taken legal action, arguing that its workers are unconstitutionally forced to return to work without pay.
Some agencies are finding creative ways to fund the services they want to restore.
The administration has focused on the continued use of public lands in general, and especially for hunters and operators of oil and gas projects, angering environmental groups. The US Fish and Wildlife Service, using the remaining funds of 2018, announced this week that it will run dozens of wildlife refuges to return staff to work, ensuring that planned activities on these lands , including organized hunts, continue.
Barbara Wainman, a spokeswoman for the agency, said most shelters remained accessible to hunters throughout the closure, and that the decision to staff them was made on the basis of three criteria: resource management, high attendance and pre-programmed programming, including organized hunts and schools. excursions. Wainman said 17 of the 38 shelters have scheduled hunts that would have been canceled without the efforts to rebuild.
The IRS uses a user fee to restore the income verification program used by mortgage lenders to confirm a borrower's income and considered an essential tool for the banking sector. After the national parks were left open but unmanned, damaging fragile ecosystems, the National Parks Service announced that it would take "an extraordinary step" by using visit fees to endow some of the major parks. And despite the closure, the Bureau of Land Management is continuing work related to drilling efforts in Alaska.
Trump has refused to sign the spending bills of nine of the 15 ministerial departments until Congress approves his request for $ 5.7 billion in funding for the construction of a wall along the border Mexican-American. The Democrats refused. The president initially said that he would be "proud" to own the partial closure, but he quickly dismissed the blame on the Democratic leaders and flirted by taking extraordinary steps to find the right one. money for the wall. Although most Republicans stood by the president, others expressed their discomfort with the strategy.
The focus on services for rural voters, influential industries and voter portfolios is designed to protect Republicans from falling back, said Barry Anderson, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget from 1988 to 1998.
According to Anderson, during the 1996 shutdown, other people met daily to determine which offices and services should be considered essential. He said that tax refunds have never made the cut.
"A government agency can only use services prior to appropriations if there is a reasonable link between the functions performed and the safety of persons or the protection of property," he said. "How are tax refunds covered by one or the other of these categories? It is not a problem of life or human property. I do not know the right word: surprised, stunned, stunned.
"This," he said, "is to keep the phones of Republican senators silent."
The Commission has held regular conference calls with the agencies and is responding to a large number of requests for services that it wants to take up. In addition, Commission officials have intentionally tried to reopen government power as much as possible, according to a senior administration official, adding that agencies are allowed to update their plans for cessation as they go. as the closure progresses. The agent was not allowed to publicly discuss internal discussions and spoke on condition of anonymity.
In the government, agencies are scrambling. The Food and Drug Administration has reduced the number of food inspections. The Ministry of Agriculture recently announced that the additional nutritional assistance program, which provides food assistance to nearly 40 million low-income Americans, will remain operational until February. because of a gap in the bill on short-term spending, expired December 22. But if the closure were to last until March, the department's reserves for the program, $ 3 billion, will not cover a month's benefits for all who need it. Other feeding programs, such as school meals, food distribution and WIC, which provide nutritional support to pregnant women, mothers and babies, are also at risk if the closure were to last until In the month of March.
Hundreds of federal contracts with low-income Americans receiving housing assistance are expiring. The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development is not in a position to renew them and instead has asked private owners to tap into their reserves to cover deficits.
Over time, more and more programs will become vital, said Linda Bilmes, professor of public policy at Harvard Kennedy School, and the meaning of what is essential will change.
"Even apart from the fact that there may be particular cases of things manipulated for political ends," she said, "there are also realities that government agencies face when they reevaluate what it is absolutely essential to do now. here, with no immediate end in sight. "