What a government shutdown means for Utah and how we got here in the first place

The U.S. Capitol is seen reflected after rain in Washington, Friday, Dec. 21, 2018. The Republican-led House approved funding for President Donald Trump's border wall in legislation that pushes the government closer to a partial government shutdown. The bill now goes to the Senate. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Washington • With Congress and the White House unable to strike a compromise on a new budget, large parts of the federal government will shutter in what could be a long, and costly, impasse.

Some 800,000 federal workers will be affected with half of them being told to stay home and the other half forced to work without pay until a new spending plan is approved.

While some government services will continue to operate because they were already funded or are seen as essential — Social Security checks will be processed, for example — the closures could still affect Utahns and the other Americans even over the holiday season.

Here’s a recap of what the partial shutdown means:

How did we get here?

Congress had until Friday evening to pass a new budget to keep most of the government up and running, but last-minute negotiations broke down after President Donald Trump demanded the package include $5 billion to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

While Republicans control the House, Senate and the White House, they needed at least 10 Democrats to support the spending plan to get over a procedural hurdle in the upper chamber. They didn’t get them, and the legislation stalled.

How long could this last?

Possibly, awhile.

Trump, who made the wall a major campaign promise, isn’t budging on his requirement for the border wall money, and Democrats aren’t likely to cave to his demand. (There was $1.5 billion for border security in a budget bill the Senate passed, but Trump said it wasn’t enough.) Trump said the shutdown could last “very long.”

So there’s a chance the government could remain partially closed until after the new congressional session starts Jan. 3. On that day, Democrats take control of the House. That would give them more sway to push back on Trump’s border wall.

How does this affect the holidays?

Most Americans who aren’t government workers may not see much of an impact over the next few days. Most government services aren’t open on weekends and federal workers already had Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off. But Wednesday, when workers would be expected to return and services open, the shutdown may be felt more.

What stays open?

Congress has already funded many parts of the government, including the departments of Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services and Labor. Others, like the State Department, may stay partially open to process passports and other services paid for by fees. For those traveling during the holidays, Transportation Security Administration agents will continue working as well as air-traffic controllers and railroad inspectors. The Postal Service will continue running.

And what closes?

The biggest hits are to the departments of Homeland Security, Interior, Treasury (including the IRS), Agriculture and Justice. While essential government workers, like FBI and Border Patrol agents, will remain on the job, rural development offices and courts, for the most part, would shutter. National parks and open-air monuments, like the Lincoln Memorial, would remain open but unstaffed. Visitor centers would close and educational programs and services like trash pickup, bathroom maintenance and snowplowing would be halted on public lands.

How does this affect Utahns?

Thousands of federal workers in Utah will go unpaid until a new budget is in place, a tough hit for many over the holiday season. The IRS facility in Ogden will mostly close during the shutdown.

The state has agreed to fund the three most popular national parks, Zion, Arches and Bryce Canyon, with up to $80,000 through the end of the year to keep trails and roads open, as well as basic visitor services. Visitors planning to hike or drive through Utah’s two other national parks — Capitol Reef and Canyonlands — can still go, though some trails may be closed and there will not be rangers to offer help.

Ski resorts — many of which operate on federal public land — will remain open.

There are nearly 37,000 federal employees, including postal workers, in Utah, with a large chunk of them employed as civilians by Hill Air Force Base.

Social Security checks will continue, though people wanting to sign up for social programs will have to wait until the government reopens. The Farm Service Agency would halt offering loans to farmers ahead of planting season and loans from the Federal Housing Administration and the Small Business Administration would be delayed.