Government Shutdown Impacts Research Community

Jan 11, 2019

The current government shutdown occurred after stopgap funding for roughly 75 percent of the government expired and congress failed to reach a consensus on President Trump’s request for $5.6 billion to construct a wall along the Southern U.S. border with Mexico on December 22, 2018. Should the shutdown last through Saturday, January 12, this will be the longest government shutdown to date. With a government shutdown, any employees deemed “nonessential” are not permitted to work or check their government email accounts.

Fortunately, there are a few agencies including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CD) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) remain open despite the shutdown. These agencies remain open as they are funded either partly or entirely through legislation that was not part of the December 22 debate.

Several other science agencies that have been affected are continuing their work in a limited scope. The New York Times explains that NASA is still providing “tracking, operation and support” for the International Space Station, while the Fish and Wildlife Service has essential caretakers continuing to report to work.

The shutdown has meant furloughed employees are absent from many laboratories, the field and science conferences currently taking place. The shutdown also means that most grant reviews are on hold, meaning no further grant or contract funds are currently being distributed. Consequently many projects that operate on grants are at risk of running out of funding and unable to continue should the shutdown continue.

House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman designate Nita Lowey (D-NY) recently submitted legislation to reopen the government and fund those agencies currently in limbo through the end of fiscal year 2019. “Responsibly funding the federal government is one of the most important duties of Congress. This legislation fulfills that responsibility, reopens federal agencies shuttered by the Trump Shutdown, and ensures that the federal government is working for the American people,” Chairwoman-elect Lowey said in a recent statement. However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) stated that he would not schedule a vote on a new funding deal that the president does not support. In a recent Cabinet meeting President Trump was confident that an agreement could be reached between Democrats and Republicans, but also noted that he was willing to keep the government shut down “as long as it takes” to get the requested $5.6 billion for the wall.