KRTV: Senators react to government shutdown; whats’s next for Montana

Senators Steve Daines and Jon Tester both spoke on the Senate floor on Saturday about the effects the government shutdown has on Montanans.

“I’m here to make on point crystal clear for those Montanans who are wondering what is going on with their government,” Senator Daines said. “The reason that the government has shut down is because a controversial illegal immigration policy was not included in a bill that funds the government.”

Senator Tester said he would not let Washington fail Montana anymore.

“Congress has failed for 112 days,” he said. “The budget ran out in September of last year. Since then, there has been no progress made. None. Instead, they have proposed four short-term, crisis-funding bills that fail Montanans.”

Now that Congress failed to pass a budget funding proposal Friday, most nonessential parts of the federal government are shutting down.

For Montana, that means restricted access to national parks, but services like Social Security and airport operations will remain functioning.

Last month, lawmakers faced a similar deadline but passed a continuing resolution on Dec. 21, keeping the government functioning for another month. 

Democrats are pushing a solution for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. They insist it be addressed before funding the government.

While a shutdown is undesirable, not all federally funded organizations will grind to a halt, but many will. It all depends on whether or not services are considered essential or nonessential. Essential services will continue and workers will remain on the job, but they won’t know when their next paycheck will arrive.

Here’s how a government shutdown will affect Montanans:

Montana community healthcare providers like RiverStone Health in Billings may be hurt, according to Senator Tester.

“For 110 days, the politicians who control Congress have refused to provide long-term funding for community health centers, which provide health care for 100,000 Montanans,” Tester stated in a press release early Friday morning.

However, Barbara Schneeman of Riverstone Health had a different take.

“At this point, if the government does shut down, there will be no immediate impact but it will depend on the duration of the shutdown. But we are uncertain, none of our staff are federal government employees, however, we do have some grants that come from the federal government so we would just wait to hear guidance. If there is a federal government shutdown, we will be open for business as usual on Monday,” she said.

Social Security checks will continue to be mailed, as much of the process is automated. Montanans will continue to receive mail as well because the Postal Service pays for itself.

Airport operations like Air Traffic Control, the Transportation Security Administration and Customs and Border Protection will remain operational.

The Interior Department said it will try to keep national parks like Yellowstone and other public lands “as accessible as possible.” During the last shutdown, the National Park Service closed national parks and national monuments completely.

“We fully expect the government to remain open, however in the event of a shutdown, Yellowstone National Park will remain as accessible as possible while still following all applicable laws and procedures,” Vickie Regula, a public affairs assistant at the Yellowstone Public Affairs Office stated.

Federally funded zoos and museums will likely be closed. ZooMontana will remain open as usual.

Federal courts will remain open and operate normally for at least three weeks, according to a spokeswoman at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Active-duty military will continue operating in places like Afghanistan and elsewhere but personnel will not be paid until after the federal budget has passed.

Many federal agencies will be closed, however, including the Department of Education, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Internal Revenue Service. Some essential functions will continue operating.

Congress will continue to operate as members negotiate a new budget bill. Lawmakers will continue to receive pay by law, but lower-level staffers will not.

The last government shutdown was in 2013 and lasted 17 days, during which 850,000 federal employees were furloughed and 1.3 million were required to work with unknown payment dates.

Over $2 billion was lost during the 2013 shutdown and an additional $24 billion worth of economic output was lost as well, according to CNN.