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If a government shutdown occurs, what actually happens?

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Why must the government shut down? According to the Antideficiency Act of 1870, federal agencies and programs must cease operations if Congress and the president fail to enact funding, except in cases of emergency. The US government shut down six times between fiscal year 1977 and FY 1980, over periods ranging from eight to 17 days, according to the Congressional Research Service. From FY 1981 to FY 1995, there were nine shutdowns lasting as long as three days. Funding for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1 extends only through March 4.

Is government prepared for a shutdown? Since 1980, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has required government agencies to submit plans for an “orderly shutdown.” The plans require agency heads to “limit their operations to minimum essential activities” and to reallocate funds to avoid interruption of services as long as possible. “Those plans are obviously updated accordingly, but they’ve been around for a long time,” said White House press secretary Jay Carney at a briefing on Tuesday.

Are members of Congress exempt from a shutdown? Yes, as is the president. That's because their compensation is financed by a resource other than annual appropriations, in this case, the US Constitution. Other exempted employees are those deemed to perform emergency work involving saving lives or protecting property, including military service, law enforcement, or direct provision of medical care, according to the most recent OMB directives, released in 2010. Sens. Barbara Boxer (D) of California and Robert Casey (D) of Pennsylvania last week proposed legislation to prohibit members of Congress and the president from being paid during a government shutdown, or retroactively. According to current law, furloughed federal workers are paid retroactively. The same protection does not apply to workers under federal contract or those whose jobs are disrupted by the shutdown.

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