Why A DHS Shutdown Might Not Look Like A Shutdown

As many as 30,000 workers could be furloughed if Congress can't reach a deal to fund the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Posted at 7:55 AM, Feb 23, 2015

 Just when the last one was beginning to feel like a distant memory ...

"The clock is ticking as we get closer to a potential shutdown." (Video via MSNBC

This time around, the holdup involves funding the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

In case you haven’t been following this latest round of political theater, this is how we got here.

Inside the agency's annual funding bill, Republicans have tucked measures that would defund President Obama’s immigration executive orders. And that, of course, is a nonstarter for Democrats.

The problem is, Congress needs to pass some version of this bill by February 27 to keep the Department of Homeland Security funded. If they don't act in the next two weeks, lawmakers — mostly Democrats — are issuing some pretty dire warnings of what might happen.

"A D.H.S. shutdown would jeopardize our national security," said Virginia democratic Sen. Mark Warner. 

"... we will actually put America at greater risk,” said Delaware democratic Sen. Tom Carper.

But in reality, the effect on national security would be minimal — at least according to this 2013 report from the agency, which spells out contingency plans in the event of a funding hiatus.

All workers deemed "essential" would show up for work. Eighty-five percent of the agency’s workers fall under this category. (Video via Transportation Security Administration

They include the Coast Guard, the Secret Service, immigration agents and TSA screeners.

Still, some 30,000 agency workers — mostly administrative staff — would be sent home.

"If we go into government shutdown, for example; that means furloughing employees, furloughing Homeland Security officials," Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said on CNN

Many of these workers would go without paychecks for as long as the shutdown lasts. 

They'd eventually receive retroactive pay, but that requires Congress to get its act together and fund the department. (Video via The White House

There is a bit of irony in all of this. Work would still go on in the very office Republicans want to hamstring. Those responsible for carrying out President Obama's immigration policies would stay on the job in the event of a shutdown. That's because their salaries aren't funded by money allocated by Congress.

This video includes images from Getty Images.