A Christmastime standoff in Congress over funding US operations has political strategists in both parties wondering: What if they had a government shutdown and no one noticed?
As both sides rush to blame the other for the failure to keep the lights on, it’s not clear anyone will really bear the blame, because for the vast majority of the public, it will be hard to notice the difference.
Airport screeners will stay on the job, postal workers will deliver packages and veterans will receive medical care. Mandatory spending programs such as Medicare will continue, and seniors will get Social Security checks.
At the same time, it will be days before most affected federal employees would otherwise report for work — after the weekend, December 24 and 25 are federal holidays.
Those circumstances give Trump and his supporters on Capitol Hill some breathing room before voters start to feel the impact of the shutdown that went into effect after midnight Friday night. But if they don’t strike a deal in the coming days, the start to 2019 promises to be bumpy.
Democrats will take over the House majority when the next Congress convenes on January 3. And Nancy Pelosi, who’s poised to be elected House speaker, has given no signs she’d entertain a spending bill that includes the $5 billion Trump wants for a wall on the border with Mexico.
Roughly 75 percent of government agencies — including some of the most public-facing, such as the Defense and Health and Human Services departments — won’t feel the brunt of the shutdown because they’ve already been funded through September. Even some of the agencies nominally shut down are mostly staffed with “essential” employees who are expected to continue to work. That includes the Justice and Homeland Security departments.