The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) commenced its initial communication with federal agencies on Thursday regarding preparations for a potential government shutdown, according to a reliable source. With Capitol Hill lawmakers still struggling to reach a consensus on a plan to avert a shutdown by November 17, these communications adhere to standard procedures outlining the process for winding down non-essential government operations.
In compliance with a budget circular document from the OMB, which states, “One week prior to the expiration of appropriations bills, regardless of whether the enactment of appropriations appears imminent, OMB will communicate with agency senior officials to remind agencies of their responsibilities to review and update orderly shutdown plans, and will share a draft communication template to notify employees of the status of appropriations.”
Each federal department and agency maintains its own set of plans and protocols, encompassing details such as the number of employees subject to furlough, identification of essential employees who would continue working without pay (such as air traffic controllers, Secret Service agents, and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention laboratory staff), the timeline for phasing out operations in the lead-up to a shutdown, and a list of activities that would be suspended.
This guidance coincides with House Speaker Mike Johnson’s absence of a clear strategy to avert a government shutdown, while Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer initiated the first procedural step to introduce a government funding bill in the Senate. This move serves as a precautionary measure that can be employed if the Republican-controlled House fails to pass a continuing resolution devoid of contentious provisions opposed by Democrats. It is crucial to note that even if the Senate approves this measure, the House must also endorse it to prevent a shutdown.
President Joe Biden, speaking to reporters before departing for Illinois, urged the House of Representatives to take action, emphasizing the inopportune nature of playing political games with a potential shutdown in the current context.
Meanwhile, White House principal deputy press secretary Olivia Dalton characterized the looming shutdown as an “extreme Republican shutdown” and emphasized the dire consequences it would pose to various sectors of the nation. Preparations for a possible shutdown are being undertaken for the second time in as many months, following the government’s last-minute intervention in September to avert a shutdown by passing a stopgap measure, a move that incurred political repercussions. Previous government shutdowns include a record 35-day shutdown in 2018-2019 over border wall funding, a three-day shutdown in 2018, and a 16-day partial shutdown in 2013 during the Affordable Care Act dispute and other budget disagreements.