With only a few hours to go before the government runs out of money, a government shutdown seems likelier right now than it did a few days ago. It may be helpful to review what would happen if the government does shut down.
Federal workers would be furloughed and many government services would cease operation. But many government operations would continue working through a shutdown because they do not rely on the annual appropriations process for their funding. Medicare and Social Security are the best-known services in this category. Other functions that get funding from user fees would also continue operations.
The National Parks service would close and many areas managed by the park service, like the National Mall in Washington D.C., would be barricaded. A large number of IRS workers are expected to stop working, though because of the filing season, many more IRS employees are going to continue working than otherwise would.
The Supreme Court would remain open and continue with business as usual. Fewer Capitol police officers would report for duty, and only “essential” Capitol Hill staff would be required to work. The Department of Defense and the military would continue to work but would not be paid. Border patrols would also continue, although those personnel would be paid either.
There are about 2.1 million federal employees. About half of them would be furloughed. Furloughed federal workers usually receive back pay for time they miss due to a shutdown, although that is not required by law.
The last government shutdown occurred in 2013. That fight was over the implementation of Obamacare and lasted more than two weeks.