One federal official unaffected by a potential government shutdown is Special Counsel Robert Mueller, news which may not be applauded at the White House.
Mueller and all employees working on the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign, including possible collusion by members of President Donald Trump’s campaign and administration, qualify as essential personnel under mandatory furlough guidelines. This makes them exempt during government shutdowns, as confirmed in an email by Justice Department spokesman Ian Prior.
President Trump continues to denounce all allegations of collusion with Russia as a “witch hunt.” But uninterrupted by the shutdown, Mueller could finish his work sooner and resolve the issue hanging over the Trump administration for months.
But how and why does an entire government shut down?
The federal government’s fiscal year begins October 1 each year and ends on September 30. That budget caps all spending by every government department, agency and office during the fiscal year. Each year, congress must approve a new budget for the coming year before October 1. But what happens when they don’t?
Two options remain for a federal government with no approved funding.
Congress can sign a Continuing Resolution Authority (CRA). This allows all government entities to operate at the same spending caps set up in the prior year budget. That means no new purchases, projects, or employees allowed unless fully funded in the 2017 budget.
With no 2018 budget, the federal government currently operates on one of these stopgap CRAs. But that spending authority ends Friday, January 19, at midnight. Without a 2018 budget approved or a CRA, a government shutdown must occur.
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