Executive authority during a shutdown?


How does the balance of authority between the executive and legislative branch change during a “government shutdown”? And how might that authority be stretched and abused by an administration eager to do so?

Yeah, Congress has power of the purse, and in normal course there are mechanisms to provide/enforce spending by the executive according to statute. But it seems that in these shutdowns, the executive gains some authority to decide what functions are critical and kept open and which are not. Where does that authority come from, and how far does it go?

Could a motivated administration decide that in a shutdown, some entire disfavored agencies like EPA, HUD, ED, etc should go to skeleton crew? Could earned benefit checks be prioritized by state or other class? Who has standing to file in what courts to successfully enjoin such overreaches?


In my limited experience of shutdowns regulatory agencies go skeleton crew. Law enforcement is different, not sure how bare bones they get, but support staff there go skeleton crew as well.

Each agency decides who is critical and who is not- so I imagine that depending on agency leadership that could change. It would not be a very effective way to stage a coup, since you would be depending on unpaid and overworked people who are likely too busy to plot. You would have to be pretty deep in to determine who the ones likely to go along with it would be… and I retain sufficient faith in the bureaucracy to think that they would be few and far between, even in law enforcement.


The Executive Branch determines what and who is “essential” and “non-essential”. I remember that in the last shutdown, Obama furloughed Social Security field office staff at first. Before the end of the shutdown, Obama brought them back because the backlog was growing so great that it may have impacted services in such a way to “harm” people.

The Legislature says “shutdown” but the Executive decides how much. The power is with the President.


No back pay when they return. I’d let quite a few agencies have a few months off.


It’s not an effective way to accomplish unauthorized things, but it seems to me a great opportunity to stop unwanted activities. Suppose you’re a Sec. of State looking to cut your own budget and staff in half, but Congress insists that you spend mandated funds for mandated activities; a govt shutdown may be exactly the destructive tool you need. Furthermore, if I recall correctly, there’s a statute that specifically prevents govt workers from working without pay, so if say CFPB leadership says you’re not essential, you’re not allowed to show up.

I’m just hoping that our legislative leaders and outside groups are thinking outside-the-box and without preconceived norms about how far the Trump people might take advantage of the situation, and how they could be forcibly stopped.


Basically, the entire government will continue to function as is, except for Mueller and his team, who will all be furloughed.


Do you think Trump will post guards rather than ticket takers at the entrances of national parks and monuments or decide that a critical worker is a highway cone man dispatched to block overlooks to Mount Rushmore?.. Or cops to keep old veterans away from memorials in Washington… you mean petty visible stuff like that?


We haven’t had a budget in years. Whole administrations come and go without a budget. Every two months or so they run out of time before they go on vacation and pass a pork filled continuous resolution. Now with one year under the current administration they are using the excuse that we are facing midterms so the political atmosphere won’t allow progress. This three card monty game goes on no matter which party controls Congress. They are in congress for one reason and one reason only, TO GET REELECTED.

None of this would work in a family setting, a small business setting, a big business setting, or basically in any real life situation.

Balance the s___ h___ budget s___ heads.



It really makes no difference they ALL get paid even the ones that did NOT work when they return . Great system indeed ! :roll_eyes: