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Surge Desk

Government Shutdown 2011: 5 Immediate Consequences If It Happened

Feb 22, 2011 – 3:50 PM
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Mary Phillips-Sandy Contributor

Will the United States federal government shut down on March 4?

It's possible. This weekend the GOP-led House passed a new spending measure that included $61 billion in spending cuts. Senate Democrats have said they will not approve the measure, which targets education, consumer safety, health and other programs.

The problem is, the spending measure that's currently in place is set to expire March 4, and Republican House Speaker John Boehner has said he will not agree to a short-term extension of that measure unless additional cuts are made. So unless a compromise is reached between now and then, all non-essential government operations will be shut down in two weeks.

The last time the government shut down was 1995-96, when Newt Gingrich and other GOP leaders clashed with President Bill Clinton over budget issues.

Based on what we know from previous shutdowns, we can estimate what will happen if the government soon shuts down.

1. Workers will be furloughed without pay.
The first shutdown in 1995, which lasted five days, affected 800,000 non-essential federal employees. The second shutdown, which lasted three weeks, furloughed 260,000 employees without pay. (Most eventually collected paychecks.)

2. National parks and museums will close.
In 1995-96, 368 National Park Service sites closed, as well as national museums and monuments. That meant losses of over 2 million visitors and associated tourism revenue to states.

3. Veterans' services will be affected.
Health, travel, finance and welfare services for U.S. veterans will be curbed.

4. Visa and passport processing will be delayed.
The U.S. tourism and airline industries reportedly lost millions of dollars after the 1995-96 shutdowns halted visa and passport processing. Approximately 200,000 U.S. passport applications went unprocessed during the shutdowns and 20,000 to 30,000 foreign visa applications were unprocessed.

5. Border patrol and law enforcement will be curtailed.
The last shutdown had a number of consequences for law enforcement and public safety operations, including reported cancellation of hiring 400 border patrol agents and cancellation of federal law enforcement recruiting programs. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms also saw delays in processing license applications.

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