Mail would go through, but government shutdown would close national parks - Omaha.com
Published Monday, September 30, 2013 at 12:30 am / Updated at 1:03 am
Impasse in Washington
Mail would go through, but government shutdown would close national parks

If Congress fails to act by late tonight, it'll be lights out for certain parts of the federal government.

As many as 800,000 of the nation's 2.1 million federal civilian workers could be told to stay home. Many basic government functions would continue uninterrupted, though others would slow or stop. But the impact would grow as time went on.

Here are some of the key immediate effects:

Mail

If snow, rain and gloom of night can't stop these couriers from their appointed rounds, what's a government shutdown? The U.S. Postal Service would be spared from a shutdown because it gets its money mainly from selling stamps and delivering packages. So don't worry; that sweater from Aunt Martha should make it through just fine.

Social Security

Already collecting benefits? Have no fear. They'll keep coming.

But those who need to enroll in the program, get a replacement Social Security card or have questions about their benefits could be out of luck. The Social Security Administration would reduce staffing in the event of a shutdown. That means potential delays for those who visit a Social Security office (180,000 per day across the country) or call the agency (445,000 per day nationally).

Congressional offices

Lawmakers would be left with only minimal staff to run their offices. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., plans to keep his Washington and Lincoln offices open with a skeleton crew in the event of a shutdown. He even plans to pitch in answering the phones himself.

But Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, would close his offices and furlough all but a small number of his aides in the event of a shutdown.

Tourists

Clark Griswold might just punch a real moose.

The most immediate effects of a shutdown would be felt by nature lovers and tourists. National parks would be closed across the country. So would the Smithsonian Institution's museums in Washington, D.C. So forget about checking out the dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum or the pandas at the National Zoo.

Meanwhile, State Department workers wouldn't be there to process visa and passport applications. Hope those plane tickets to Paris are refundable.

Health care

Doctors would continue to see Medicare patients — so, no, you shouldn't cancel that colonoscopy appointment.

Ironically, the rollout of the new health care law that Republicans are determined to halt would continue largely unaffected by a shutdown. The new marketplaces where people can shop for insurance plans and view what subsidies they qualify for will go online Tuesday regardless. And administration officials say telephone help lines will be up and running, staffed by contractors, whether there's a shutdown or not.

Internal Revenue Service

Some IRS tax audits would probably be suspended. Silver lining, right?

This report contains material from World-Herald press services.

Contact the writer: Joseph Morton

joe.morton@owh.com    |  

Joe is The World-Herald's Washington, D.C., bureau, covering national political developments that matter most to Midlanders.

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