Is a government shutdown going to happen? How does it affect you? What to know

Editor's note: This page is the news of a potential government shutdown for Thursday, Sept. 28. For the latest news on the chances of a government shutdown, read our live updates file for Friday, Sept. 29.

WASHINGTON−The U.S. is two days away from a shutdown − a situation moving from possible to likely as Congress has failed to cut through gridlock and reach a deal to fund the federal government.

Millions of Americans will be impacted if lawmakers can't reach a deal before 12:01 a.m. Oct. 1.

A shutdown would impact the country's largest food assistance programs, federally funded preschool, federal college grants and loans, food safety inspections, national parks and more.

Here's the latest news on where things stand with the looming government shutdown, why it matters and how it impacts you and your family.

Following a closed-door Republican strategy session, Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., talks to reporters about updates on funding the government and averting a shutdown, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Following a closed-door Republican strategy session, Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., talks to reporters about updates on funding the government and averting a shutdown, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Why does a government shutdown happen?

A government shutdown takes place when Congress is unable to pass a dozen annual spending bills that funnel money to government programs and agencies.

A shutdown is likely when both chambers in Congress − the House and Senate − can’t come to an agreement on how much money to allocate to certain agencies or agree on certain spending provisions, putting federal agencies at risk. A partial government shutdown can occur if Congress is able to pass any of the 12 individual spending bills.

When both chambers can't reach a compromise, funding levels expire and federal agencies must cease all non-essential function.

−Rachel Looker

What are the 12 appropriation bills?

In order to fund the government, lawmakers must pass 12 appropriations bills – each tailored to a specific government function.

The appropriations bills are handled by their respective subcommittees in both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. For example, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense steers the Defense spending bill, which provides funding for the Department of Defense and other related activities.

In previous years, Congress passed an “omnibus” package – a massive bill combining all 12 appropriations bills into one piece of legislation. The change this year is among the concessions House Speaker Kevin McCarthy made to hardline conservatives in his bid for the job in January when he promised to pass all 12 bills separately.

Hard-right lawmakers have argued a vote on each bill would allow for more transparency in the spending process. But with three days left before a government shutdown, it is virtually impossible for Congress to pass all 12 bills in time considering the House has only passed one of the 12 and the Senate hasn't passed any.

The only likely resolution to avert a shutdown is a short-term stopgap measure to keep the government open and buy lawmakers more time to move through the appropriations process.

− Ken Tran

Do national parks close during a government shutdown? 

It depends on the park. During previous shutdowns, some national parks closed entirely, while others remained technically open but without staff to maintain them

Some fell into disarray, with trash piling up and toilets overflowing.

But some park service employees, such as emergency medical personnel, would still be on the job during a government shutdown. However, services could be disrupted.

– Zach Wichter and Nathan Diller

House Dem Leader: House GOP would ‘own this government shutdown’

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., warned House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., that House Democrats would not support a Republican-crafted stopgap measure if it was put on the floor, instead urging him to hold a vote on the Senate’s bipartisan version of a continuing resolution to keep the government open.

“There is a bipartisan agreement that meets the needs of the American people that would keep the government open that is working its way through the Senate,” Jeffries said at a weekly press conference Thursday.

Jeffries praised the Senate version of the bill, which is “free from any extreme policy partisan poison pill” provisions and includes President Joe Biden’s request for additional U.S. aid to Ukraine and disaster relief funding.

If Congress can’t pass a funding deal by the Sept. 30 deadline, Jeffries said House Republicans would “own this government shutdown.”

−Ken Tran

What is the deadline for the government shutdown?

The U.S. government will shut down at 12:01 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 1 if lawmakers don't pass a continuing resolution or a federal budget by Sept. 30.

The continuing resolution, a stopgap measure that would temporarily fund the government while lawmakers work to pass a comprehensive budget, would prevent a shutdown from occurring on Oct. 1.

Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said the House will vote Friday on a continuing resolution, but it's unclear if it has enough votes to pass.

−Sudiksha Kochi

‘Our national security depends on it’

Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., who now chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee after twice-indicted Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., stepped down, said Thursday morning there are thousands of examples of how a government shutdown affects the readiness of the country.

“This is absolutely dangerous, reckless and ridiculous that we can’t keep government open,” he said.

Cardin called on House Speaker Kevin McCarthy R-Calif., to garner bipartisan support in the House and live up to the commitment the House Speaker made with President Joe Biden during debt ceiling negotiations.

“You can’t let the extremes control the operations in the House,” he said. “Our national security depends upon it as well as the inconvenience of costing the American taxpayer.”

In one example, Cardin said a shutdown would affect the civilian faculty at the U.S. Naval Academy located in Maryland. If a shutdown goes on for any length of time, Cardin said the midshipmen will not be able to complete the accredited number of courses they need in time.

‘This is just one example affecting the readiness of our nation,” he said.

−Rachel Looker 

Will Social Security be paid if there is a government shutdown?

Social Security recipients will continue to receive checks in the event of a government shutdown and Medicare benefits will not be interrupted.

However, employees in the Social Security Administration are likely to be furloughed and government food assistance benefits could see delay.

A few services that are not directly related to Social Security payment benefits and direct-service operations would be temporarily suspended.

− Marina Pitofsky and Sudiksha Kochi

Are state employees affected by a government shutdown?

A shutdown could impact state employees whose employers depend on federal funds to operate and must shut down certain activities that the government has deemed non-necessary.

In this case, certain state employees could be furloughed until a shutdown passes.

But state employees who receive salaries from private employers who do not rely on federal funds wouldn’t necessarily be impacted.

-Sudiksha Kochi

Updates on government shutdown: What to expect today

The House is scrambling, working minute by minute, hour by hour, to pass spending bills. Today's schedule includes procedural votes on amendments and four spending bills that would fund Homeland Security, Agriculture, Defense and Agriculture and State-Foreign Operations.

Even if all four spending bills pass, the lower chamber still needs to work through its disagreements on each bill with the Senate. And there are less than 100 hours before the government shuts down.

Senators are focusing on their continuing resolution, a temporary funding measure that has garnered bipartisan support and would avert a shutdown. The upper chamber will hold a procedural vote this morning to advance their continuing resolution, which is tied to the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill.

House lawmakers have yet to vote on their version of a continuing resolution−a procedural move that has strong opposition from ultraconservatives in the Republican caucus.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Thursday morning the Senate will vote on their version of a stopgap measure Saturday, hours before the deadline to avert a shutdown.

- Rachel Looker

What closes during a government shutdown?

All “non-essential” federal agencies will have to stop operations in a government shutdown, including the Food and Drug Administration’s food safety inspections, Environmental Protection Agency inspections and disaster relief by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Programs like Head Start for preschoolers and the nation's food aid would also lose funding and come to a halt.

National parks could close, and the Smithsonian museums and National Zoo in Washington, D.C. said they would stay open as long as funding allows.

−Savannah Kuchar

What does a government shutdown mean for Medicare?

Medicare benefits will continue, though there could be a delay in some payments.

The benefits are considered among essential services, along with air travel, Amtrak, Social Security payments and more.

-Candy Woodall

Where do things stand right now?

There are two days until funding levels expire and the House has not made any significant progress in averting a government shutdown.

Lawmakers in the lower chamber held procedural votes last night that advanced four separate spending bills, but it did not bring them any closer to averting a shutdown. Even if the lower chamber passes individual spending bills this evening, lawmakers still need to reconcile with the Senate for both chambers to pass a bill— which is becoming more and more unlikely by the hour.

Top Republicans—including ultraconservatives in the Republican caucus—have also rejected a stopgap measure introduced in the Senate that would extend current funding levels through Nov. 17. A stopgap measure may be the best bet for lawmakers to avert a shutdown as the clock ticks.

−Rachel Looker

What was the longest government shutdown in U.S. history?

The longest government shutdown lasted for 35 days from late 2018 to early 2019 under the Trump administration. It went into effect after the House and Senate failed to reach a compromise on a short-term funding plan to keep the government running through early next year.

The critical issue was that Senate Democrats opposed President Donald Trump’s $5.7 billion request for building a wall on the southern border.

Before that, the longest government shutdown lasted from Dec. 5, 1995, to Jan. 6, 1996,  when Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Democratic President Bill Clinton faced off over taxes.

- Sudiksha Kochi and John Fritze

How long was the last government shutdown?

The last government shutdown lasted from Dec. 22, 2018 to Jan. 25, 2019. Spanning 35 days, it was the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.

It was also the third federal shutdown to occur during the Trump administration; the first lasted three days in January 2018, and the second lasted only a few hours in February 2018.

−Olivia Munson

List of government shutdowns

Over the last five decades, there have been 21 federal shutdowns:

  • 1976: Under President Gerald Ford. Lasted for 11 days.

  • 1977: Under President Jimmy Carter. Lasted 12 days.

  • 1977: Under President Carter. Lasted eight days.

  • 1977: Under President Carter. Lasted eight days.

  • 1978: Under President Carter. Lasted 17 days.

  • 1979: Under President Carter. Lasted 11 days.

  • 1981: Under President Ronald Reagan. Lasted two days.

  • 1982: Under President Reagan. Lasted one day.

  • 1982: Under President Reagan. Lasted three days.

  • 1983: Under President Reagan. Lasted three days.

  • 1984: Under President Reagan. Lasted two days.

  • 1984: Under President Reagan. Lasted one day.

  • 1986: Under President Reagan. Lasted one day.

  • 1987: Under President Reagan. Lasted one day.

  • 1990: Under George H.W. Bush. Lasted four days.

  • 1995: Under President Bill Clinton. Lasted five days.

  • 1996: Under President Clinton. Lasted 21 days.

  • 2013: Under President Barack Obama. Lasted 17 days.

  • 2018: Under President Donald Trump. Lasted three days.

  • 2018: Under President Trump. Lasted several hours.

  • 2019: Under Trump. Lasted 35 days.

-Olivia Munson

Jimmy Carter’s birthday party moved because of possible government shutdown

Former President Jimmy Carter’s 99th birthday celebration was moved from Sunday, Oct. 1 - his actual birthday - to Saturday, Sept. 30, amid the possibility of a government shutdown, according to the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum.

“We want to make sure we are celebrating regardless of what Congress does,” Tony Clark, the site’s public affairs director told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

If the shutdown does not occur, the museum will have another round of festivities on Sunday for visitors.

−Saman Shafiq and Sudiksha Kochi 

What are essential workers?

Only employees for “essential” government services, generally related to public safety, are able to continue working during a shutdown. This includes air traffic controllers, national security agents and more.

These workers will go without a paycheck for the duration of a shutdown and receive backpay for their time on the job at its conclusion.

Meanwhile, many employees of “non-essential” federal agencies, such as NASA or national parks, will be furloughed.

−Savannah Kuchar 

How a government shutdown affects you

Millions of Americans would be impacted by a government shutdown.

Federal workers would be furloughed without pay. "Essential" federal workers, such as those who work for the Federal Aviation Administration, would work without pay − but would receive backpay once a shutdown ends. Numerous subcontractors would be out of work and would not receive backpay.

The impact would stretch far beyond federal workers though. It would also be felt in millions of homes across America.

Here are some ways a government shutdown would impact your family:

  • Funding for WIC − the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children − would stop immediately

  • Food stamp benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program would remain intact in October but could be impacted after that

  • Children from low-income families would lose access to Head Start preschool programs

  • College students could see delays in their student loans

  • The Food and Drug Administration would delay nonessential food safety inspections

  • The Occupational Safety and Health Administration would limit its work

  • Travelers could see delays with receiving passports

  • National parks could close

  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) would have no money for disaster relief

−Candy Woodall

Is there going to be a government shutdown?

The U.S. government will shut down at 12:01 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 1 if lawmakers don't pass a continuing resolution or a federal budget by Sept. 30.

The continuing resolution, a stopgap measure that would temporarily fund the government while lawmakers work to pass a comprehensive budget, would prevent a shutdown from occurring on Oct. 1.

Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said the House will vote Friday on a continuing resolution, but it's unclear if it has enough votes to pass.

−Sudiksha Kochi

What happens when the government shuts down?

A government shutdown means all federal agencies and services officials don’t deem “essential” have to stop their work and close their doors.

Some of those essential services include the U.S. Postal Service delivering mail and people receiving Medicare and Social Security benefits. Those will continue whether or not the government shuts down.

But so-called “non-essential” work can still have significant impacts for federal employees and Americans across the country. Thousands of federal workers would be furloughed, government food assistance benefits could be delayed and some food safety inspections could also be put on pause.

– Marina Pitofsky  

Will a government shutdown affect air travel?

The deepest impact would not be on your flight or cruise.

Funding to agencies like the Federal Aviation Administration, Transportation Security Administration and Customs and Border Protection would be on hold. However, the agents who you typically interact with at airports and seaports, and the controllers who oversee your flights are considered essential and will be working without pay during the shutdown.

Impacts on those agencies have more to do with things like hiring and training. All the crucial safety functions like inspections and air traffic control continue.

Consular operations in the U.S. and internationally will also continue normally “as long as there are sufficient fees” collected to support them, according to the most recent guidance from the State Department. “This includes passports, visas, and assisting U.S. citizens abroad.”

There could be economic repercussions, though. A government shutdown is estimated to cost the country's travel economy as much as $140 million per day, according to an analysis for the U.S. Travel Association.

− Zach Wichter and Nathan Diller

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Government shutdown updates: How an Oct. 1 shutdown would affect you