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Update: Government Shuts Down, But FCC Remains Open, For Now

Says it has enough to still pay staffers for week

The government shut down at midnight Friday (Jan. 19) as Republicans and Democrats failed to come to an agreement on a bill to keep funding the government. The FCC said Friday that if the government shut down, the commission will not, at least for the first week — through Friday, Jan. 26, at least.

Asked what the FCC would do in case of an extended shutdown, Brian Hart, director of the FCC’s Office of Media Relations, had said earlier in the day: “In the event of a partial government shutdown, because of available funding, the Federal Communications Commission plans to remain open and pay staff at least through the close of business on Friday, January 26.”

Hart had no comment on what would happen beyond that first week, though the FCC did submit a shutdown plan in December at OMB’s request.

During the October 2013, three-week, government shutdown, the FCC shuttered its website and had to suspend its filing deadlines and suspend its merger-review shot clocks. Commissioners and some essential personnel still came to work, however.

A senior White House official said that a number of agencies had existing funds that could keep them open and paying staff, and that the Trump Administration had encouraged them to do so to minimize the impact of the shutdown on the public and federal workers. The official also signaled that the previous Administration during the 2013 shutdown had appeared to want to exacerbate the impact of that shutdown for political purposes, something this Administration was not going to do.

President Donald Trump said in a statement that the shutdown was on the Democrats and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), while Schumer said it was entirely on Pres. Trump. Schumer called it a “Trump shutdown” several times on the Senate floor, while Press Secretary Sarah Sanders released the following statement:

“Senate Democrats own the Schumer Shutdown. Tonight, they put politics above our national security, military families, vulnerable children, and our country’s ability to serve all Americans. We will not negotiate the status of unlawful immigrants while Democrats hold our lawful citizens hostage over their reckless demands. This is the behavior of obstructionist losers, not legislators. When Democrats start paying our armed forces and first responders we will reopen negotiations on immigration reform. During this politically manufactured Schumer Shutdown, the president and his administration will fight for and protect the American people.”

Despite what some people are saying on TV, said Schumer on the Senate floor Sunday, the president picked a number on the wall funding and there was a tentative agreement, then backed away from what Schumer called the last best chance for a compromise. Schumer also said the country was calling it the Trumpshutdown, which was trending on Twitter.

The White House also sent out photos Friday evening of the president in the Oval Office and outside White House, billing it as the president at work during the “Democrats government shutdown,” yet another effort to put the impasse brand on a donkey rather than an elephant.

The president then followed up with this email to supporters Sunday:

It’s now Day Two of the Schumer Shutdown. This statement needs to be posted in every Democrat’s office — and the president wants your name signed below his.

We The People will NEVER FORGET January 19, 2018, the day Senate Democrats chose to shut down the American government, deprive American children of health care, and hold our American military hostage to protect illegal immigrants.’”

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), a big critic of Trump positions on net neutrality, immigration, healthcare, and just about everything else, saw it differently.

“With Republicans in control of the White House, the Senate, and the House of Representatives, the only person to blame for the government shutdown is Pres. Trump,” said Markey. “Democrats wanted to work with Republicans in a bipartisan way to strike a fair deal to keep the government open, protect our DREAMers, and fund critical health priorities. There is bipartisan agreement to be had, but Pres. Trump is the one holding it up.”

If the shutdown extends beyond Jan. 26, the FCC commissioners and 227 essential employees will remain on the job, while 1,265 employees will be furloughed.

Among the things that won’t happen, according to the FCC plan: “Consumer complaint and inquiry phone lines cannot be answered; consumer protection and local competition enforcement must cease; licensing services, including broadcast, wireless, and wireline, must cease; management of radio spectrum and the creation of new opportunities for competitive technologies and services for the American public must be suspended; and equipment authorizations, including those bringing new electronic devices to American consumers, can not be provided.”

At all agencies, cybersecurity monitoring will continue, said OMB Director Mick Mulvaney Saturday (Jan. 20). “Agencies will ensure that staff working on the maintenance and safeguarding of IT systems will continue to work during the lapse, and that systems will continue to get their critical updates. Agencies will ensure that staff working on the maintenance and safeguarding of IT systems will continue to work during the lapse, and that systems will continue to get their critical updates,” he said.

“Congress and the administration have only themselves to blame for failing to keep the federal government open,” said American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. “This shutdown is a direct result of lawmakers continuing to punt the ball instead of having the courage to make the tough decisions that we elected them to do.”

“Failing to fund the government even for a day has real-world consequences,” said Cox. “The 2013 shutdown lasted 16 days, cost American taxpayers $24 billion, and caused valuable work to grind to a halt. Hundreds of cancer patients were prevented from enrolling in NIH clinical trials, 6,300 children were denied access to Head Start programs for up to nine days, 1,200 EPA site inspections were cancelled, and 1,400 OSHA inspections to prevent workplace fatalities and injuries were stopped. These are just a few examples.”