As the government shutdown drags into its third week with no solution in sight, the prolonged stalemate is nearing several major turning points. None of them are good.
If the shutdown continues into Friday, Jan. 11, federal courts will run out of funding, and hundreds of thousands of federal workers will miss their next paycheck. And if the shutdown goes on one day after that, it will become the longest in U.S. history.
The partial shutdown started Dec. 22 when funding for many federal agencies expired and President Trump refused to sign any spending measure from Congress that did not include $5 billion for his U.S.-Mexico border wall. It’s already one of the longest shutdowns ever after stretching into a third week.
Saturday, Jan. 12 would mark its 22nd day, setting a new record for U.S. shutdowns. The longest on record lasted 21 days under President Bill Clinton, from the end of December 1995 through the start of January 1996.
The current shutdown has already taken a toll across the country. About 800,000 federal workers are furloughed or working without pay, and trash is piling up in unstaffed national parks that are only being cleaned by volunteers. But more damage will be done if the shutdown lasts through the coming week.
Friday is when federal employees would normally start getting paychecks for the first pay period of the year, which ended Saturday. Even if the shutdown ended this week, the length of time needed to update automated payroll processes means most wouldn’t see any cash until Jan. 25 at the earliest.
Federal courts — which have so far been mostly unaffected — will also start feeling the pain on Friday.
The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts said if the shutdown stretches to Friday, the federal judiciary will have to operate under the Antideficiency Act, which will restrict federal court funds. Each court and defender’s office will have to decide on the staffing and resources necessary for essential services during the shutdown.
According to a Justice Department contingency plan prepared last year, criminal litigation is considered essential and will continue without interruption, but civil cases could be “curtailed or postponed” through the shutdown. More than 18,000 Justice Department employees — 16 percent of its overall workforce — would be furloughed.
Even more cuts will come to government services should the shutdown go through January. Millions of Americans who need food stamps could have their assistance disrupted if the government hasn’t reopened by February.
President Trump and Democratic congressional leaders have given no indication a compromise will come soon on border funding. Mr. Trump reiterated Sunday he is prepared to declare a national emergency over the shutdown, though he did not say how that would help secure funding for his wall.
“We have a lot of different ways,” he told reporters outside the White House. “I’m not going to get into that.”