WASHINGTON – Life under a government shutdown will look much like life every other day – unless you work for the federal government.
That's the bottom line the Trump administration announced Friday, as lawmakers and the president continued to dicker over a plan to fund the government and meet Democratic demands to deal with a key immigration issue at the same time.
Unlike a shutdown in the fall of 2013 when national parks and other prominent facilities closed, the Trump administration plans to keep many federal operations open if they involve hands-on dealing with the public.
Here's how Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, spelled things out:
"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."
That's a contrast to the last government shutdown, when the closure of national parks, in particular, led to public outrage.
Mulvaney said the Obama administration shut down parks at that time so people would blame the shutdown on Republicans in Congress.
"We are going to manage the shutdown differently," he said. "We are not going to weaponize it."
That means that the shutdown, the result of a stalemate between Democrats and Republicans, could be a shutdown many people wouldn't notice.
The U.S. military will remain on duty around the world.
Border crossings into Canada will continue to be patrolled.
The U.S. Postal Service will continue to deliver mail, and Transportation Security Administration agents will continue to clear airline passengers through security screenings.
"But again, all of these people will be working for nothing, which is simply not fair," Mulvaney noted.
Other federal programs, such as Social Security, unemployment insurance, welfare and food stamps, will continue to operate as if nothing happened. That's because their funding doesn't depend on the budget bill that Trump and congressional leaders are negotiating.
Medicare and Medicaid will keep running, as will veterans' hospitals, which Congress had already funded separately.
Federal courts have enough funding to continue operating for a few weeks, and Congress has already set aside money to keep federal prisons operating.
What would close, then?
Anything the government deems nonessential.
So, if you have a question for the IRS, you won't get an answer until the shutdown ended.
If you have to visit a federal government building, you ought not bother, because they will be closed. That means passport offices located in federal buildings will shut down, although the one in Buffalo would likely remain open, because it's not located in the city's federal building.
If you're planning to visit the Smithsonian museums or the National Zoo in the nation's capital next week, you will be out of luck. They'll run out of money after Sunday.
And if you're a government researcher, you will have to put your work on hold.
This is happening because Congress and the president can't agree on a spending measure to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, or even a few weeks.
To hear lawmakers talk, it's all the other party's fault.
"The problem is that President Trump has previously declared he wanted the government shut down and is doing all he can to get it," said Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, a New York Democrat.
Rep. Chris Collins noted the budget bill the Republican House passed Thursday night would not only avert a shutdown, but would fund the Children's Health Insurance Program for six years.
Collins, a Clarence Republican, put the blame for the stalemate on the shoulders of Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, a New York Democrat.
"As negotiations continue I hope that Chuck Schumer and Senate Democrats stop playing politics with the health of our nation’s children and vote to keep the government up and running," Collins said.
Schumer – who met with Trump on Friday to try to find a way out of the stalemate – said he and Trump made progress toward a compromise in a Friday afternoon meeting.
Other Democrats, such as Rep. Brian Higgins of Buffalo, said they were aghast that Congress – led by Republicans – had allowed the government to even approach a shutdown. He said Republicans keep kowtowing to the president, who keeps changing his position in the negotiations, leading to chaos.
"This is a manmade, avoidable disaster," Higgins said.
Rep. Tom Reed, a Corning Republican, said it's a disaster that should have been avoided.
"We cannot ignore our commitments," Reed said. "I call on our senators on both sides of the aisle to support a sensible solution and ensure we keep the government up and running."