As of Thursday evening, the government has been in the midst of a partial shutdown for 20 straight days. The shutdown is the direct result of disagreements between POTUS and Democratic leaders over how much border wall funding should be allotted in 2019. And given that there has been no sign of interest in a compromise from either side of the partisan aisle, some people might be wondering what happens if the government shutdown never ends. After all, the president himself has said that it might go on for years.
According to The New York Times, the partial government shutdown will become the longest shutdown in history on Saturday, Jan. 12, marking the 22nd day of the crisis. During this time period, over 800,000 federal employees have been furloughed, and agencies like the FDA and the DHS have been largely inactive.
In short, for the government shutdown to end, there needs to be a majority agreement on the budget. If there continues to be a lack of will to compromise on the budget, then the government will have to start fully shutting down services and agencies, according to The Washington Post. The publication notes that it would also have to start seeking loans from financial lenders.
The first programs to be cut, according to Julian Zelizer, a political historian at Princeton University, would be those with less political support. To The Washington Post, he said, "[The first programs to be cut would be] programs for vulnerable people. The food stamp program. Child care. Infant care. These are important programs but they are vulnerable because their constituencies are not constituents with a whole lot of political power."
Other programs that would be cut in early stages would include visa and passport issuance, scientific research, and arts programs, Zelizer explained.
It's worth noting that the government has a large role in the national economy, given how many hundreds of thousands of people it employs. That being said, a long-term government shutdown could have a massive impact on the stability of the national and international economy.
If the government remained shut down, Zelizer added, there would be a few government programs that would likely remain intact. He listed federal prisons, border control, and social security, the latter of which is funded on its own. He said to The Washington Post, "The government is not going to shut those down unless there's a scenario where we've hit rock bottom."
For anyone concerned about the notion of a long-term partial shutdown, there's one factor to consider that serves as a strong motivator to end the shutdown in the near future: the cost. The New York Times notes that a government shutdown is exponentially more costly on a dollar level than a functioning government.
The 2019 shutdown became that much more costly on Thursday when the Senate approved back pay for federal workers affected by the shutdown, to be rolled out when the shutdown ends, according to CBS. The publication reported that although Trump does have to sign the bill, he has indicated that he will.
A White House estimate of the costs of the 1996 shutdown during the Clinton administration described the loss as "significant." So it's likely that politicians are really feeling the pressure to end the shutdown, as the nation enters its third week of the crisis.