We are three days shy of a partial government shutdown, and some on the left are predicting the sky will fall if a budget deal is not struck. At the heart of the issue is the refusal of Democratic lawmakers to pass a funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security that also blocks President Obama’s executive action granting amnesty to 5 million illegal aliens. (Some liberal commentators are suggesting the GOP is seeking to delegitimize the president’s action but that implies the executive order was legitimate in the first place.)
Among the crepe hangers is Barbara Mikulski, the veteran senator from Maryland, who is currently top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee. She said:
There are ghoulish, grim predators out there who would love to kill us or do us harm. We should not be dillydallying and playing parliamentary pingpong with national security.
If this goes to shutdown, this could close down ports up and down the East Coast, because if you don’t have a Coast Guard, you don’t have the ports. You don’t have the ports, you don’t have an economy.
The president himself picked up on the economic impact theme, warning the nation’s governors on Monday:
They [DHS employees] all work in your states. These are folks who, if they don’t have a paycheck, are not going to be able to spend that money in your states.
Vox founder Ezra Klein evidently missed the warnings from Mikulski, Obama, and DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, who admonished on Sunday that a shutdown threatens to hamstring U.S. response to terrorist threats and warnings, writing that “Washington’s non-panic over the imminent shutdown” reveals that “the 9/11 era is over.” Klein should try telling that to the survivors of the Americans executed by the Islamic State in recent months.
So how big a deal would a DHS shutdown be? According to a fact check by the Associated Press, “most people will see little change if the department’s money flow is halted, and some of the warnings of doom are as exaggerated as they are striking.” The article explains:
[T]he reality is that a department shutdown would have a very limited impact on national security.
That’s because most department employees fall into exempted categories of workers who stay on the job in a shutdown because they perform work considered necessary to protect human life and property. Even in a shutdown, most workers across agencies, including the Secret Service, Transportation Security Administration, Federal Emergency Management Agency and Customs and Border Protection, would continue to report to work.
Airport security checkpoints would remain staffed, the Secret Service would continue to protect the president and other dignitaries, the Coast Guard would stay on patrol, immigration agents would still be on the job.
Indeed, of the agency’s approximately 230,000 employees, some 200,000 of them would keep working even if Congress fails to fund their agency. It’s a reality that was on display during the 16-day government-wide shutdown in the fall of 2013, when national parks and monuments closed but essential government functions kept running, albeit sometimes on reduced staff.
Contrary to Mikulski gloom and doom pronouncement, the ports on the East Coast will stay in operation and so will the Coast Guard.
One change that would occur is that most workers would not be paid until the shutdown ended (at which point they would be paid retroactively), but Congress would receive an earful from constituents angry about going without their paychecks.