#Cliffgate Begins: Why The Shutdown Will Last At Least A Week
This is being written several hours after the Senate summarily rejected yet another proposal from the House to tie funding for the government to changes in Obamacare.
The House then moved to do something it should have done days...or at least hours...ago: officially request a conference with the Senate on the continuing resolution so that formal negotiations over the fiscal 2014 continuing resolution can get underway. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) then adjourned the Senate until 9:30 am EDT and indicated that he expects that the request for a conference will be rejected until the House adopts a short-term CR that funds the government.
What all of the legislative maneuvering means is that the federal government shutdown many (or perhaps most) people thought would be avoided has started and will be in effect for a while.
It also means that the question has now changed from "Will there be a shutdown?" to "How long will it last?".
Here's what you need to know about the logistics of the shutdown.
Federal agencies and departments will have until noon today EDT to lock the doors and shutter the windows, so if there's some resolution of the situation by lunch time there will be no appreciable impact of the lapse in appropriations that began at midnight October 1. For example, although few will realize it and the buildings are likely to be empty, you should still be able to get into the Smithsonian.
The real impact will start to be felt at 12:01 pm October 1 as agencies and departments cease operating. Calls will no longer be returned, visas and passports applications will no longer be accepted, tax refund checks will no longer be processed, invoices from contractors will stop being paid, etc. That will continue until the shutdown ends.
As I said 10 days ago, I'm projecting that the shutdown will last at least a week because it will take that long for the impact of the shutdown to start to be felt and, therefore, to make ending it more politically acceptable.
Consider the following:
1. The impact of the shutdown will barely start to be felt by noon today for the reasons noted above. There likely will even be some silly public statements by some elected officials that the shutdown is having no effect whatsoever.
2. From noon today until the close of business on Wednesday, there will be more amusement with the spectacle of the shutdown -- such as video of federal employees leaving their buildings, "closed" signs on department offices, people being turned away from national parks, less traffic on the roads in areas with high concentrations of federal employees -- than inconvenience with the lack of government services.
3. The inconvenience and, therefore, frustration, will grow steadily through the week. It will subside a bit over the weekend when most federal agencies are closed anyway and few people typically have any dealings with them. National parks and recreation areas will be obvious exceptions.
4. As the weekend comes to a close, the frustration will change to anger as anyone who works for or needs to deal with the government realizes that they are facing another week without a paycheck, an answer to their question, a tax refund, an invoice payment, access to the campsite they reserved a year ago at Yosemite or Yellowstone, etc.
5. This is the point at which there will start to be real pressure on members of Congress as the impact of the shutdown finally hits home for many people and the prospect of lost wages and less business becomes a reality.
6. This is also the point that contractors and businesses that rely indirectly on the federal government -- like the restaurants across the street from the big IRS facility in Fresno and the suppliers those restaurants use for everything from napkins to hamburgers -- start to realize how much this could hurt them if it's not resolved soon. Many will tell employees to stay home and those that get paid by the day will suffer.
7. Assuming the Democrats stay as united as they have been the past week, only 16 House Republicans will need to feel this pressure from their voters. When that happens, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) will have a tougher time convincing his members to stay together.
8. And that's the point at which at least a short-term break in the shutdown will be politically acceptable, or possibly even mandatory.