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Government Closure Is Now Longest Ever

Sunday, January 13, 2019

The shutdown officially is the longest in U.S. history, eclipsing a 21-day closure that ended Jan. 6, 1996, during President Bill Clinton's administration.

The shutdown enters its fourth week next week, with Trump's threat to declare a national emergency still on the table.

The House and Senate adjourned for the weekend, with lawmakers scattering to their states and districts before snow blankets the nation's capital. With no negotiations expected during the weekend, the shutdown will enter its fourth week next week.

"That is not a historical claim that I think any president or any Congress should want to make" - Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, on the shutdown becoming the longest ever in U.S. history.

Miami's airport will close one of its concourses most of Saturday, Sunday and Monday to make sure security checkpoints are adequately staffed as the shutdown begins to strain the aviation system. Security screeners who aren't being paid are staying home and safety inspectors are off the job.

Assessing the health of the U.S. economy may be complicated by an even more prolonged shutdown. The shutdown already has delayed or distorted key reports on growth, spending and hiring because workers who compile the data have been furloughed. Government data on home construction and retail sales won't be released next week, while the next report on the economy's overall growth - set for Jan. 30 - won't be released if the shutdown remains in effect.

Nine of the 15 Cabinet-level departments have not been funded, including Agriculture , Homeland Security, State, Transportation, Interior and Justice. Some iconic National Park facilities are shuttered as are the Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo in Washington. Nearly everyone at NASA is being told to stay home, as are most at the Internal Revenue Service, which processes tax returns and issues refunds, though the administration says it will issue refunds during the shutdown.

Some 420,000 federal employees whose work is declared essential are working without pay, including the FBI, TSA and other federal law enforcement officers. Some staff at the State and Homeland Security departments are also working without compensation.

The House and Senate have voted to ensure that all federal employees will be paid retroactively after the partial government shutdown ends. The bill now heads to President Trump, who is expected to sign it.

The government shutdown is wreaking havoc on many Americans: Hundreds of thousands of federal employees don't know when they'll see their next paycheck, and low-income people who rely on the federal safety net worry about whether they'll make ends meet should the stalemate in Washington carry on another month.

But if you're a sportsman looking to hunt game, a gas company planning to drill offshore or a taxpayer awaiting your refund, you're in luck: This shutdown won't affect your plans.

All administrations get some leeway to choose which services to freeze and which to maintain when a budget standoff in Washington forces some agencies to shutter. But in the selective reopening of offices, experts say they see a willingness to cut corners, scrap prior plans and wade into legally dubious territory to mitigate the pain. Some noted the choices seem targeted at shielding the Republican-leaning voters whom Trump and his party need to stick with them.

The cumulative effect is a government shutdown — now officially the longest in U.S. history — that some Americans may find financially destabilizing and others may hardly notice.