In November 2023, Congress passed another continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government fully operational. However, rather than passing a CR to temporarily fund all federal departments and agencies, Congress passed a two-step CR that contained four appropriations bills expiring January 19 and eight appropriations bills expiring February 2. Absent approval of another CR by January 19, funding will run out for a number of federal government departments and agencies, including the Departments of Agriculture, Veterans Affairs, and Transportation.
Past government shutdowns paused nonessential activities in various government departments—for example, national parks and museums have closed. Critical federal functions such as the Postal Service, payment of Social Security benefits, and air traffic control staffing generally were not affected. The scope of these pauses can vary across shutdowns, and each government agency within the affected departments and agencies will publish guidance clearly defining the scope of its activities during a shutdown. Federal shutdowns don’t affect state and local government functions that are not dependent on federal funding.
We expect a similar process to play out for the departments and agencies affected by the four appropriations bills if these bills are not approved by January 19.
Shutdowns have occurred more than 20 times since 1976. Unlike a default, a shutdown does not affect the government’s ability to pay its obligations, and, as noted, many critical services continue.