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How a shutdown could affect Manhattan

By Bryan Richardson

Plenty of area residents are holding their breath as politicians in Washington play partisan politics over the Affordable Care Act, using a possible government shutdown as leverage.

The latest continuing resolution to keep the country funded expires Monday, and Congress has yet to pass a spending bill. The Republican-controlled House continues its attempts to push defunding of Obamacare into its version of any funding bill.

The Democrat-controlled Senate has said that no bill that defunds or delays the health care act will survive that chamber, and President Obama already has said he would veto such a bill in any case.

The possibility of a shutdown, at least a brief one, appeared very real Saturday night simply because it’s becoming almost logistically impossible to get a spending bill passed before midnight on Monday.

It may all be political theatrics and brinksmanship, but ordinary Americans are nervous. That naturally includes plenty of Kansans.

In the event the government does shut down, Manhattan residents can expect to see some of the effects.

Fort Riley, the biggest federal employer in the area, would experience some ramifications if a shutdown occurred, but the level of the impact has yet to be determined, said John Armbrust, executive director of the governor’s military council.

“It’s unique each time,” Armbrust said. “It depends on where bills are in the appropriations process and what funding is already available.”

Generally, uniformed soldiers still go to work.

Those deemed non-essential in the civil service wouldn’t report to work, although Armbrust called their work important.

“Of course, that interrupts everything that goes on because they play a very essential role,” he said.

Armbrust said whether military pay would be delayed and the amount of back pay for those furloughed still needs to be determined. U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., is a co-sponsor of a bill that would allow the military to receive pay during a government shutdown.

A total of $404 million in funding for the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) is in Homeland Security appropriations bills from the Senate and House.

The project, which would bring the nation’s animal disease research facility to Manhattan, has gotten back on track as construction has resumed on the facility’s central utilities plant.

However, the last of the funding hasn’t been finalized because a conference committee needs to work on the differences in the bills.

Ron Trewyn, K-State vice president of research, said doesn’t expect any delays to the NBAF timeline should a government shutdown happen.

“I can’t think of any way it would impact positively or negatively,” he said.

Trewyn, K-State President Kirk Schulz and Sue Peterson, K-State governmental relations director, will travel to Washington, D.C., on Monday to meet with members of the Kansas delegation and Homeland Security officials.

Trewyn said the group will get updates on NBAF’s progress during the trip, which was scheduled months ago.

“Hopefully the government doesn’t shut down while we’re there,” he said. “We’ll still have meetings with a number of people, regardless.”

For an idea of the impact a government shutdown might have, the most recent case to examine happened in late 1995, when a Republican Congress refused to pass a funding bill for fiscal 1996 in a battle with President Bill Clinton.

Republicans in that case were trying to slash money for Medicare, education, the environment and public health.

The shutdown occurred off and on through parts of November 1995 through January of ’96, a total of 28 days.

Some examples of the impact from those shutdowns are listed here, courtesy of the Congressional Research Service:

• New patients were not accepted into clinical research at the National Institutes of Health.

• The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms stopped processing alcohol, tobacco, firearms and explosives applications.

• Some 200,000 U.S. applications for passports and approximately 20,000 to 30,000 applications by foreigners for visas went unprocessed each day.

• Services for veterans, such as health and welfare were curtailed.

• National Park Service sites closed. (Kansas has five sites: Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, Fort Scott National Historic Site, Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site, Nicodemus National Historic Site and Fort Larned National Historic Site.)

Several services would continue in the event of a shutdown.

• Safety and security services, including the police, corrections, fire department, National Weather Service, air traffic management, the FBI, CIA and foreign relations would remain in operation.

• The U.S. Postal Service and the Federal Reserve wouldn’t be affected because they have independent sources of funding. Social Security payments also continued during the last government shutdown.

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