Shutdown could have widespread effects

Shutdown could have widespread effects

April 8th, 2011 by Pam Sohn in News

SHUTDOWN PLANNING

• Exempt from ordered closures:

The military, the Department of Homeland Security, the office of the president, members of Congress, presidential appointees and specific judicial employees

• Self-financed and remaining open:

The Tennessee Valley Authority, the Federal Reserve and U.S. Postal Service

• Industry financed:

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which is financed by the banking industry

• Conditionally operating

The National Weather Service is expected to monitor dangerous weather and issue warnings, but more mundane forecasts may not be produced.

Federal court scheduling and court cases have two weeks of funding before they would be affected.

Source: Web pages, news wires

On what is expected to be the first warm, sunny weekend of the tourist season and the official beginning of the Civil War's 150th anniversary, the gates of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park may be closed.

A federal government shutdown is looming as lawmakers in both political parties scramble to reach a long-term funding compromise on the nation's budget.

On Thursday, the region's Republican U.S. House lawmakers voted to keep the government funded for one more week under a stopgap budget. It cuts $12 billion from the budget and also funds the Department of Defense through the end of this fiscal year.

President Barack Obama views the measure as unacceptable and has threatened to veto it.

If no compromise happens by midnight today, "visitor activities ... including public events, will not be allowed or will be canceled or postponed. Visitor centers will be closed and access to park areas denied," states a Department of Interior message.

That means a national re-enactment and celebration of the first shots at Fort Sumter can't happen Saturday on the fort's government land unless last-minute compromises enable Congress to pass a budget for the rest of fiscal 2011.

And locally it means a special three-hour "First Shot of the Civil War" battlefield tour on Sunday by local ranger and park historian Jim Ogden could be canceled.

A similar message has been distributed to U.S. Forest Service workers, and both the Cherokee and Chattahoochee-Oconee national forests in Tennessee and Georgia will be closed, according to Terry McDonald, a ranger and spokesman for Cherokee National Forest.

But it won't just be the public's recreation that is affected if the shutdown occurs and continues into next week. The shutdown would affect more than 800,000 "nonessential" federal employees across the nation.

In that case, getting passport applications, signing up for Social Security, getting mortgage loan approvals and closing on new homes all face delays.

ON THE RECORD

"The fact of the matter is that the country's financial house has to be put in order."

Jordan Powell, spokesman for U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn.

"Unfortunately, it seems that the Democrats are more focused on finding ways to shutdown the government for perceived political gains than addressing our staggering national debt."

Robert Jamison, spokesman for Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R, Tenn.

Additionally:

• Thousands of federal workers in Tennessee and Georgia face unpaid furloughs and perhaps even layoffs, but the 6,100 TVA workers should not be affected because the Tennessee Valley Authority is self-financed.

• Federal tax refund processing could be delayed, as well as income verifications for loans of all kinds.

Tina Christein, branch manager of Churchill Mortgage, said a government shutdown could delay as much as 75 percent of home mortgage closings until government banking and mortgage workers return to work.

"It will be a big mess in the mortgage industry," she said. "We have to order tax transcripts on people, and that won't be able to be done. And we do government loans that have to go to USDA. FHA loans have to have loan numbers, and we can't even order appraisals without that number. It will delay closings for as long as it goes on," she said.

Some federal offices will be exempt from closure. The military and the Department of Homeland Security will continue to operate, as will the office of the president, members of Congress, presidential appointees and specific judicial employees.

POLITICAL POINTS

This year House Republicans have churned out short-term budget after short-term budget. They say it's now Senate Democrats' turn to either produce a budget or support the House's measure.

"The House, our body, has consistently gone to the Senate and the White House with potential solutions and time and time again have been rebuffed," Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., said in the Capitol.

A major point of contention is language included in the GOP funding measures that's more policy than budget oriented.

One inclusion in the stopgap bill forbids the District of Columbia from using its own funds to pay for abortions for low-income women.

"Obviously if you wanted the government to continue to run you wouldn't add superfluous issues which are sure to lose votes from people who are for women's choice," said Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn.

The inclusion of that language was some Republicans' line in the sand, though many senior Republicans admit they'd rather vote for a deficit-reducing bill stripped of all the partisan policy issues.

"Almost no bill before the Congress is ever perfect, but it's the main goal of almost all the Republicans to try to do something about this horrendous debt that we're in," said Rep. John Duncan, R-Tenn., after voting in favor of the stopgap measure.

Contact correspondent Matt Laslo at mlaslo@gmail.com.