Fedweek

Washington DC, Feb. 5 2019 - President Trump gave his State of the Union to Congress after several delays as a result of the partial government shutdown over approving a US budget with funding for a southern border wall ("or barrier") that looms ahead a Feb. 15 expiration of current funding

The mid-point has now been reached between the end of the record-setting partial shutdown and the potential start of another, with a temporary funding measure to expire February 15 but with little apparent progress toward resolving the underlying dispute over a southern border wall.

As it stands now, a new shutdown would affect the same agencies. House leaders continue to say the Senate should pass full-year spending bills already approved in the House for all agencies except DHS–the vehicle for border security spending, for which the House has voted for temporary extensions pending a resolution of that issue–but the Senate has continued to keep them on the shelf.

The House last week failed to advance a measure from its leadership expressing the sense of that chamber that partial shutdowns should never occur again. While a majority voted for it, the margin was not sufficient under the special rules used for the vote requiring a two-thirds approval.

Ahead of such deadlines, the traditional practice has been to enact additional temporary extensions, but that pattern broke down last year, resulting in two brief shutdowns early in the year and the start of the 35-day shutdown over late December-late January.

While the same agencies would be involved in a renewed shutdown, there would be some differences. As the shutdown dragged on, several agencies started calling back to work employees who had been furloughed, to get needed work accomplished, even though those workers were not deemed “excepted.” Presumably those same employees would remain on the job again–the biggest group of recalls involved the IRS for work on the new tax filing season, which is now more advanced than it was at the time.

Also, this time there would be no uncertainty regarding whether furloughed employees would receive back pay for the missed working time. That always had been guaranteed to those who worked without pay but had to be addressed each time for those who were furloughed. However, the recently enacted law providing back pay for employees furloughed in the recently ended shutdown makes that same guarantee for all future shutdowns.

More on furlough rules for federal employees at ask.FEDweek.com