U.S. Congressman LOUIE GOHMERT: Proudly Serving the First District of Texas

 

Travel

Would the passport offices still be open to receive applications/process passports since they are a fee for service operation?

According to the House Foreign Affairs committee, the State Department has not yet issued any final guidance, and these issues are still under internal discussion. State did say that -- during the mid-1990s shutdown -- processing was cut back to just emergency passport and visa issuance. Normal passport and visa processing was put on hold. According to the committee, Consular Affairs says that while those activities are largely fee-for-service funded – not all of the links in the issuing chain are fee-funded. Also, according to CRS Report RL34680, though not necessarily indicative of future shutdown effects, in the past approximately 20,000-30,000 applications by foreigners for visas reportedly went unprocessed each day; 200,000 U.S. applications for passports reportedly went unprocessed; and U.S. tourist industries and airlines reportedly sustained millions of dollars in losses.

How would this affect our customs and border patrol? Airport screeners? Air Traffic Controllers? What would happen to U.S. Border Patrol agents at the U.S.-Mexican border?

It is the understanding of the House Committee on Homeland Security that CBP agents and TSA screeners would likely be deemed essential personnel and that they would continue to be operational. DHS has not yet provided the Committee specific information on these issues. According to a CRS Report RL34680, though not indicative of future shutdown activities, border and coastal protection and surveillance and the continuance of air traffic control and other transportation safety functions and the protection of transport property was an excepted activity in FY 1996. In FY 1996 cancellation of the hiring of 400 Border Patrol agents occurred during the shutdown according to the report.

How would TSA be affected?

It is the understanding of the House Committee on Homeland Security that Customs and Border Protection agents and TSA screeners would likely be deemed essential personnel and that they would continue to be operational. DHS has not yet provided the Committee on Homeland Security specific information on these issues.

Would there be disruptions in the aviation system? Would air traffic controllers be affected?

According to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Air Traffic Controllers would continue operating as normal. Almost all ATCs are considered essential/exempt

Would Amtrak run?

According to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure staff, Amtrak would continue to operate.

 

Federal Projects and Operations:

as are personnel, in the event of a shutdown. Everyone who works at a the Bureau of Prisons is considered a federal law enforcement officer and expected to help with safety, even if their daily focus is on food preparation, health services, or something of the sort. Thus, during the last shutdown all prison employees were treated as essential. However, there will likely be some furloughs at the administrative offices, but employees working on intelligence and monitoring will likely also be considered essential. The same is likely to be true for pre-trial detainees held in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service.

What would happen with federal contracts?

According to CRS Report RL34680, federal employees and contractors cannot be paid, for example, if appropriations have not been enacted. It would still be possible under the Constitution, nevertheless, for the government to make contracts or other obligations if it lacked funds to pay for these commitments. The so-called Antideficiency Act prevents this, however. The act prohibits federal officials from obligating funds before an appropriations measure has been enacted, except as authorized by law. The act also prohibits acceptance of voluntary services and employment of personal services exceeding what has been authorized by law. Exceptions are made under the act to the latter prohibition for "emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property." Therefore, the Antideficiency Act generally prohibits agencies from continued operation in the absence of appropriations. Failure to comply with the act may result in criminal sanctions, fines, and removal. According to CRS Report RL34680, of $18 billion in Washington, DC, area contracts, $3.7 billion (over 20%) reportedly were affected adversely by the funding lapse; the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) was unable to issue a new standard for lights and lamps that was scheduled to be effective January 1, 1996, possibly resulting in delayed product delivery and lost sales; and employees of federal contractors reportedly were furloughed without pay.

Would non-federal entities be able to continue administering federal grants? ie: research through NIH

According to CRS Report RL34680, While not indicative of future shutdowns, in the past new patients were not accepted into clinical research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) clinical center; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ceased disease surveillance; and hotline calls to NIH concerning diseases were not answered.