Shutdown Time

There seems to be virtually no chance a government shutdown will be averted by midnight tonight. So it’s time to start counting up the casualties, courtesy of Wonkblog‘s Brad Plumer:

* More than 800,000 federal employees will not report to work tomorrow.

* The percentage of employees by agency prevented from working will range from a low of 4% at the VA to 95% at NASA. The Postal Service will not be affected at all.

* Federal services immediately suspended will include issuance of new low-income housing vouchers and payments to local housing authorities, the E-verify program for immigrants, visa and passport processing, and some veterans’ benefits. EPA and the CDC will go into “hibernation” mode, with basically enough staffing to deal with an emergency.

* A short shutdown could shave about three-tenth of a percent from 4th quarter GDP, according to one estimate.

These are all assessments related to a brief shutdown. A long stalemate would eventually affect all federal operations, and could damage a still-fragile economy severely.

And why is all this happening, lest we forget? Yes. there are underlying differences between the two parties over spending levels and particularly sequestration. But a short-term CR could almost certainly be passed that would gloss over these differences. So this (and the far more dangerous upcoming threat of a debut default) is really about the GOP’s desire to mess with Obamacare before it can be fully implemented.

Ezra Klein suggests this is the equivalent of congressional Democrats threatening a shutdown or debt default after a Romney victory in 2012 if Republicans didn’t agree to add a public option to Obamacare. Can you imagine the howling if that had happened?

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.