The ongoing standoff in Washington over the federal budget is now less than three days away from its deadline, with Republicans and Democrats still locked in disagreement in the House of Representatives. If the parties can't pass a spending plan by the end of Friday, money will stop flowing from federal coffers, and the government will start to shut down on Saturday. But what does that mean, exactly?
For the general Public: Unless you are one of 4.4 million people who work for the federal government, you probably won't notice the shutdown at first, especially since many federal offices are closed on the weekend anyway. Employees considered essential — including soldiers, security personnel and intelligence workers — will remain on the job, but operations like the Smithsonian will close. As the New York Times points out, "the National Zoo will close but the lions will get fed." Federal courts will stay open for at least a couple of weeks, operating from funds they have on hand. "After that, who knows?" courts spokeswoman Karen E. Redmond told the Times. The Post Office will stay open, as it is owned, but not operated by the federal government, but the IRS will close. That means many people waiting on refund checks will have to keep waiting. However, Social Security checks will go out.