What stays open during a possible government "appropriations hiatus"

  • 5 December 2017
  • NormanL
What stays open during a possible government "appropriations hiatus"

With the possibility still hanging in the air that the federal government could shut down on December 8, the Congressional Research Service has issued a revised study (updated November 30) explaining the how's and why's of such events. One interesting bit of history, that still has effects today, is a 1981 memo from then-OMB director David Stockman that identified certain government operations that would continue even if the rest of the federal leviathan is on an "appropriations hiatus." Included on the list:

Beginning [on the first day of the appropriations hiatus], agencies may continue activities otherwise authorized by law, those that protect life and property and those necessary to begin phasedown of other activities. Primary examples of activities agencies may continue are those which may be found under applicable statutes to:

1. Provide for the national security, including the conduct of foreign relations essential to the national security or the safety of life and property.

2. Provide for benefit payments and the performance of contract obligations under no-year or multi-year or other funds remaining available for those purposes.

3. Conduct essential activities to the extent that they protect life and property, including:

a. Medical care of inpatients and emergency outpatient care;

b. Activities essential to ensure continued public health and safety, including safe use of food and drugs and safe use of hazardous materials;

c. The continuance of air traffic control and other transportation safety functions and the protection of transport property;

d. Border and coastal protection and surveillance;

e. Protection of Federal lands, buildings, waterways, equipment and other property owned by the United States;

f. Care of prisoners and other persons in the custody of the United States;

g. Law enforcement and criminal investigations;

h. Emergency and disaster assistance;

i. Activities essential to the preservation of the essential elements of the money and banking system of the United States, including borrowing and tax collection activities of the Treasury;

j. Activities that ensure production of power and maintenance of the power distribution system; and

k. Activities necessary to maintain protection of research property.

You should maintain the staff and support services necessary to continue these essential functions.

The report also notes:

“The longest such shutdown lasted 21 full days during FY1996, from December 16, 1995, to January 6, 1996. More recently, a funding gap commenced on October 1, 2013, the first day of FY2014, after funding for the previous fiscal year expired.” It lasted 16 days.