WASHINGTON (AP) — Although the government won't actually close if Congress fails to pass a spending bill by Friday at midnight, plenty of things won't get done if hundreds of thousands of federal employees are barred from working until Washington agrees on a budget plan.
In the event of a shutdown, U.S. troops will stay at their posts and mail will get delivered, but almost half of the 2 million civilian federal workers would be barred from doing their jobs.
How key parts of the federal government would be affected by a shutdown:
INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE
A shutdown plan posted on the Treasury Department's website shows that nearly 44 percent of the IRS' 80,565 employees would be exempt from being furloughed during a shutdown. That would mean nearly 45,500 IRS employees would be sent home just as the agency is preparing for the start of the tax filing season and ingesting the sweeping changes made by the new GOP tax law.
The Republican architects of the tax law have promised that millions of working Americans will see heftier paychecks next month, with less money withheld by employers in anticipation of lower income taxes. The IRS recently issued new withholding tables for employers.
But Marcus Owens, who for 10 years headed the IRS division dealing with charities and political organizations, said it's a "virtual certainty" that the larger paychecks will be delayed if there's a lengthy government shutdown.
HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES DEPARTMENT
Half of the more than 80,000 employees would be sent home. Key programs would continue to function because their funding has ongoing authorization and doesn't depend on annual approval by Congress. But critical disruptions could occur across the vast jurisdiction of HHS programs — including the seasonal flu program.
Medicare, which insures nearly 59 million seniors and disabled people, would keep going. And so would Medicaid, which covers more than 74 million low-income and disabled people, including most nursing home residents.
States would continue to receive payments for the Children's Health Insurance Program, which covers about 9 million kids. However, long-term funding for the program will run out soon unless Congress acts to renew it.
Deep into a tough flu season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would be unable to support the government's annual seasonal flu program. And CDC's ability to respond to disease outbreaks would be significantly reduced.
Many of the nearly 115,000 Justice Department employees have national security and public safety responsibilities that allow them to keep working during a shutdown. So will special counsel Robert Mueller's team investigating Russian meddling in the presidential election. His office is paid for indefinitely.
The more than 95,000 employees who are "exempted" include most of the members of the national security division, U.S. attorneys, and most of the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, U.S. Marshals Service and federal prison employees. Criminal cases will continue, but civil lawsuits will be postponed as long as doing so doesn't compromise public safety. Most law enforcement training will be canceled, per the department's contingency plan.
If no deal is reached to keep the government open, many State Department operations will continue. Passport and visa processing, which are largely self-funded by consumer fees, will not shut down. The agency's main headquarters in Washington, in consultation with the nearly 300 embassies, consulates and other diplomatic missions around the world, will draw up lists of non-essential employees who will be furloughed.
Department operations will continue through the weekend and staffers will be instructed to report for work as usual on Monday to find out whether they have been furloughed.
U.S. INTELLIGENCE AGENCIES
The workforce at the 17 U.S. intelligence agencies would be pared down significantly, according to a person familiar with contingency procedures.
The official, who was not authorized to publicly discuss the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity, said employees who are considered essential and have to work will do so with no expectation of a regular paycheck.
While they can be kept on the job, federal workers can't be paid for days worked during a shutdown. In the past, however, they have been paid retroactively even if they were ordered to stay home.
HOMELAND SECURITY DEPARTMENT
A department spokesman said nearly 90 percent of Homeland Security employees are considered essential and will continue to perform their duties in the event of a government shutdown.
That means most Customs and Border Protection and Transportation Security Administration workers will stay on the job, according to the department's shutdown plan, dated Friday.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement will be staffed at about 78 percent, meaning more than 15,000 of the agency's employees will keep working. The Secret Service, also part of Homeland Security, will retain more than 5,700 employees if there's a shutdown.
The Interior Department said if there is a government shutdown, national parks and other public lands will remain as accessible as possible. That position is a change from previous shutdowns, when most parks were closed and became high-profile symbols of dysfunction.
Spokeswoman Heather Swift said the American public — especially veterans who come to the nation's capital — should find war memorials and open-air parks available to visitors. Swift said many national parks and wildlife refuges nationwide will also be open with limited access when possible.
She said public roads that already are open are likely to remain open, although services that require staffing and maintenance such as campgrounds, full-service restrooms and concessions won't be operating. Backcountry lands and culturally sensitive sites are likely to be restricted or closed, she said.
More than half — 34,600 — of the Department of Transportation's 55,100 employees would continue working during a shutdown. The bulk of those staying on the job work for the Federal Aviation Administration, which operates the nation's air traffic control system.
Controllers and aviation, pipeline and railroad safety inspectors are among those who would continue to work.
But certification of new aircraft would be limited, and processing of airport construction grants, training of new controllers, registration of planes, air traffic control modernization research and development, and issuance of new pilot licenses and medical certificates would stop.
At the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, investigations on auto safety defects would be suspended, incoming information on possible defects from manufacturers and consumers would not be reviewed and compliance testing of vehicles and equipment would be delayed.
The Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, whose operations are mostly paid for out of the Federal Highway Trust Fund, would continue most of their functions. The fund's revenue comes from federal gas and diesel taxes, which would continue to be collected. But work on issuing new regulations would stop throughout the department and its nine agencies.
NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the agency's infectious disease chief, said a government shutdown would be disruptive to research and morale at the National Institutes of Health but would not adversely affect patients already in medical studies.
"We still take care of them," he said of current NIH patients. But other types of research would be seriously harmed, Fauci said.
A shutdown could mean interrupting research that's been going on for years, Fauci said. The NIH is the government's primary agency responsible for biomedical and public health research across 27 institutes and centers. Its research ranges from cancer studies to the testing and creation of vaccines.
"You can't push the pause button on an experiment," he said.
Associated Press writers Sadie Gurman, Joan Lowy, Andrew Taylor, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Laurie Kellman, Deb Riechmann, Matthew Lee and Marcy Gordon contributed to this report.