PoliGraph: Bachmann shutdown claim on point

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Congress has until the end of the week to broker a deal to fund the government through September. If they don’t, some lawmakers warn that governmental activities will come to a halt.

But U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann says that a government shutdown is “actually a slowdown.”

“About one-fourth of the federal workforce would be furloughed. Three-fourths of the federal workforce would stay in place, Social Security checks would continue to go out, the military would continue to be paid, and all essential services” would remain active, said Bachmann she said during a March 31, 2010 interview with reporters.

Bachmann’s claim is correct.

The Evidence

Republicans and Democrats are at an impasse over how much to cut spending. If Congress fails to approve funding this week, the government is legally required to shutdown.

But that doesn’t mean Washington will go dark.

President Barack Obama and members of Congress would stay. And a White House official confirmed that military personnel would be retained and continue to earn money, but they wouldn’t be paid until funding is approved. Jobs that protect life or property, such as law enforcement officials, would also be exempted.

The White House also confirmed that roughly 800,000 workers would be furloughed. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the federal government employs roughly 2.8 million civilians, so that means roughly 28 percent would be temporarily out of work. Bachmann’s estimate is in range.

Social Security checks will continue to go out, so on that point, Bachmann is also correct.

But approval of Small Business Administration loans would be put on hold, national parks and museums would be closed, and at the height of tax season, the Internal Revenue Service will stop processing paper returns.

The Verdict

Bachmann is correct that a shutdown is more like a slowdown.


Rep. Michele Bachmann, speaking with reporters on March 31, 2011

Congressional Research Service, Shutdown of the Federal Government: Causes, Processes, and Effects, Clinton T. Brass, Feb. 18, 2011

The U.S. Constitution, Article 1; Section 9, accessed April 4, 2011

The Office of Management and Budget, Sec. 124 – Agency Operations in the Absence of Appropriations, accessed April 4, 2011

The House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, Government Shutdown I: What’s Essential, Dec. 6 and 14, 1995

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, number of federal employees 1995-1996, accessed April 4, 2011

The Social Security Administration, History of the SSA 1993-2000, accessed April 4, 2011

Reuters, Factbox: What happens in a U.S. government shutdown?, Feb. 28, 2011

The Christian Science Monitor, If a government shutdown occurs, what actually happens?, by Gail Russell Chaddock, Feb. 23, 2011


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