How federal shutdown would hit Michigan

Keith Laing
The Detroit News
The U.S. Capitol Building Dome is seen before the sun rises in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018.

Washington — If the federal government partially shuts down Saturday, Michigan is likely to feel little initial effect.

The Senate approved legislation Wednesday night to temporarily fund the government and avoid a partial federal shutdown, But President Donald Trump signaled he wouldn't sign the stopgap funding measure unless it has $5.7 billion for the border wall, so the House voted to amend the Senate measure to add the money.

Congress faces a Friday deadline when funding for part of the government expires. 

But Michigan's state government says it can operate about 45 days before any impact from a loss of federal reimbursements are felt. 

"Because the threat of a federal government shutdown has become so commonplace, it's really just business as usual for the state and for our state budget office," said Kurt Weiss, communications director for the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget. 

"At this moment, the president does not want to go further without border security, which includes steel slats or a wall," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders in a Thursday statement.

The House-amended funding measure faces an uncertain fate in the Senate.

Under a partial shutdown, Michigan's five national parks would remain open, but most of the employees won’t be there under a contingency plan. Among the services that wouldn't be provided would be restrooms, trash collection and road maintenance.

"We are not going to speculate on any possible change in government operations," said Jeremy Barnum, a National Park Service spokesman. "National parks are open and continue to welcome visitors."

Most passports would continue to be issued. Homeland Security’s “essential employees," such as immigration enforcement, would continue working, but without pay.

Twelve federal agencies haven't yet been funded, including the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Federal employees in Michigan who might be affected by a potential shutdown include those at the HUD's Detroit Field Office; the Internal Revenue Service's Detroit Office and Computing Center; the Food and Drug Administration's Detroit Laboratory, and the EPA's National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory in Ann Arbor.

Under the OMB's shutdown procedures, workers at HUD's Detroit Field Office would report for duty on Monday for a half day to change their voicemails and put up notices that the office is closed to the public. The National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory referred questions about contingency shutdown plans to agency's Washington press office, which declined to comment.

The White House Office of Management and Budget sets shutdown guidelines, which are issued one week before the scheduled expiration of federal funding, regardless of whether a deal is imminent. The OMB would not reply to a request for information about how services would be affected at Michigan's federal agencies.

Unlike the last shutdown in 2013, which lasted 17 days, Congress already has passed funding bills to finance three-quarters of government operation. Departments such as Defense, Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services are staying open.

The federal government has been operating over the past few years under continuing resolutions lasting a variety of months instead through annual appropriations because of a lack of consensus on spending plans. This has prompted constant threats of potential federal shutdowns.

"We don't do any special planning," Weiss said. "If there were to be a shutdown and we got the impression that it would be prolonged, we would definitely set up meetings and do some planning. ...

"The most immediate impacts would be on those federal workers who live in Michigan who might be impacted by being told to stay home." 

The likelihood of a shutdown appeared to dwindle Wednesday as the Senate  approved a continuing resolution to extend funding for the remaining agencies until Feb. 8. That's when Democrats will control of the U.S. House and potential candidates eyeing a 2020 challenge against President Donald Trump will be contemplating campaigns. 

"We will turn a clean continuing resolution later today so we can make sure we don't end this year the way we began — with another government shutdown because of Democrats' allergy to sensible immigration policies," U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in a Wednesday speech on the Senate floor. "We need the government to remain open for the American people." 

Trump appeared to be searching Wednesday for a face-saving way to declare victory if Congress sends him the legislation without funding for his border wall along the Mexico border. 

"Mexico is paying (indirectly) for the Wall through the new USMCA, the replacement for NAFTA!" Trump tweeted Wednesday. "Far more money coming to the U.S. Because of the tremendous dangers at the Border, including large scale criminal and drug inflow, the United States Military will build the Wall!" 

U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township, said the impact of a shutdown would extend far beyond the federal workers who are temporarily furloughed, although he acknowledged they would face hardships if their normal pay cycles were interrupted. 

"During the 2013 extension shutdown, the (U.S.) economy lost $24 billion," he said. "A lot of the focus is on government services we won't have, and that's bad. Hundreds of thousands of government workers will go without paychecks. That's bad. But the biggest impact is introducing another layer of uncertainty in the economy." 

Kildee predicted Republicans and Democrats would unite quickly behind a continuing resolution that would force Trump's hand. 

"Democrats and Republicans generally agree on budget priorities, but the president is choosing to act like a spoiled child if he doesn't this one priority," he said. "We can't reward that. We can't spend $5 billion because the president will stom his feet and whine if he doesn't get his way.

"If you just left this to Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate, we could get this done," Kildee continued.

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Twitter: @Keith_Laing