How a Government Shutdown Works, and More from CRS

Short-term funding of the government is currently set to expire on December 8. If funding is not extended by Congress, then most government operations would have to cease.

The processes and procedures by which such a shutdown would be executed, as well as its broader implications, were described in a newly updated report from the Congressional Research Service.

“Government shutdowns have necessitated furloughs of several hundred thousand federal employees, required cessation or reduction of many government activities, and affected numerous sectors of the economy,” the CRS report said.

“The longest such shutdown lasted 21 full days during FY1996, from December 16, 1995, to January 6, 1996. More recently, a funding gap commenced on October 1, 2013, the first day of FY2014, after funding for the previous fiscal year expired.” It lasted 16 days. See Shutdown of the Federal Government: Causes, Processes, and Effects, November 30, 2017.

And see, relatedly, Funding Gaps and Government Shutdowns: CRS Experts, November 28, 2017.

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Other new and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

Deficits and Debt: Economic Effects and Other Issues, updated November 21, 2017

The Trump Administration and the Unified Agenda of Federal Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions, November 29, 2017

Nuclear Energy: Overview of Congressional Issues, updated November 27, 2017

Repair or Rebuild: Options for Electric Power in Puerto Rico, November 16, 2017

Federal Role in Voter Registration: The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 and Subsequent Developments, November 28, 2017

Social Security Primer, updated November 30, 2017

Reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the 115th Congress, updated November 30, 2017

Statute of Limitation in Federal Criminal Cases: An Overview, updated November 14, 2017

Contested Elections in Honduras, CRS Insight, November 30, 2017

Colombia: Background and U.S. Relations, updated November 14, 2017

Iran’s Expanding Economic Relations with Asia, CRS Insight, November 29, 2017

New Zealand: Background and Bilateral Relations with the United States, updated November 13, 2017

Federal Disaster Assistance: The National Flood Insurance Program and Other Federal Disaster Assistance Programs Available to Individuals and Households After a Flood, updated November 28, 2017

Navy DDG-51 and DDG-1000 Destroyer Programs: Background and Issues for Congress, updated November 30, 2017

Navy Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Program: Background and Issues for Congress, updated November 30, 2017

Navy Lasers, Railgun, and Hypervelocity Projectile: Background and Issues for Congress, updated November 30, 2017

Killing Endangered Species: What’s Reasonable Self-Defense?, CRS Legal Sidebar, November 29, 2017

Who’s the Boss at the CFPB?, CRS Legal Sidebar, November 28, 2017

Net Neutrality Revisited, and More from CRS

The principle of “net neutrality,” which requires telecommunications companies to provide equal, non-discriminatory access to the Internet, is likely to be weakened next month when the Federal Communications Commission takes up a proposal to modify Obama-era regulations on net neutrality.

The Congressional Research Service produced a newly updated report on the subject, suggesting that congressional intervention might be appropriate.

“The FCC’s move to reexamine its existing open Internet rules has reopened the debate over whether Congress should consider a more comprehensive measure to amend existing law to provide greater regulatory stability and guidance to the FCC,” the CRS report said, adding that whether Congress would do so “remains to be seen.”  See The Net Neutrality Debate: Access to Broadband Networks, updated November 22, 2017.


Another new CRS report notes that the 11 remaining signatories of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement are moving forward without the US, following President Trump’s January 2017 withdrawal from the negotiations. Twenty provisions of the agreement that had been sought by US negotiators have now been suspended as a result. See TPP Countries Near Agreement without U.S. Participation, CRS Insight, November 20, 2017.


Other new and updated products from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

Zimbabwe’s Political Transition: Issues for Congress, CRS Insight, November 22, 2017

Cuba: U.S. Policy in the 115th Congress, updated November 22, 2017

FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act: Selected Military Personnel Issues, November 22, 2017

End-Year DOD Contract Spending, CRS In Focus, November 17, 2017

Keystone XL Pipeline: Recent Developments, November 21, 2017

The Distribution of the Tax Policy Changes in H.R. 1 and the Senate’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, CRS Insight, November 21, 2017

FDA Human Medical Product User Fee Programs: In Brief, November 21, 2017

Post-Heller Second Amendment Jurisprudence, November 21, 2017

The Campus-Based Financial Aid Programs: Background and Issues, November 21, 2017

Fibbing to Get a Lawyer: Circuits Split on Punishment, CRS Legal Sidebar, November 27, 2017

The Federal Government’s Plenary Immigration Power Collides with the Constitutional Right to an Abortion (Part I), CRS Legal Sidebar, November 27, 2017

Navy Columbia (SSBN-826) Class Ballistic Missile Submarine Program: Background and Issues for Congress, updated November 22, 2017

Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans: Background and Issues for Congress, updated November 22, 2017

Contracting Adversary Aircraft, and More from CRS

The US Air Force and Navy might choose to train their fighter pilots in simulations using enemy aircraft that are flown by contractors, the Congressional Research Service said in a new brief.

“Particularly in the case of the Air Force, which has increasingly publicized a shortage of pilots, using contractors to provide adversary air may free up experienced uniformed pilots for other duties,” CRS said. Doing so would also “offer U.S. pilots the opportunity to fly against a diversity of aircraft types without the overhead and expense required to maintain a fleet of planes not otherwise in inventory.” See Contracting the Adversary, CRS Insight, November 16, 2017.

Other new or updated products of the Congressional Research Service include the following.

Zimbabwe: A Military-Compelled Transition?, CRS Insight, November 16, 2017

Private Flood Insurance and the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), CRS Insight, updated November 17, 2017

The Individual Mandate for Health Insurance Coverage: In Brief, updated November 16, 2017

Tax Incentives for Charitable Giving in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1), CRS Insight, November 17, 2017

Monuments and Memorials Authorized and Completed Under the Commemorative Works Act in the District of Columbia, updated November 17, 2017

Monuments and Memorials Authorized Under the Commemorative Works Act in the District of Columbia: Current Development of In-Progress and Lapsed Works, updated November 17, 2017

OPEC and Non-OPEC Crude Oil Production Agreement: Compliance Status, CRS Insight, November 16, 2017

Cybersecurity Resources, and More from CRS

A compilation of online documents and databases related to cybersecurity is presented by the Congressional Research Service in Cybersecurity: Cybercrime and National Security Authoritative Reports and Resources, November 14, 2017.

Other new and updated publications from CRS include the following.

A Primer on U.S. Immigration Policy, November 14, 2017

Defense Primer: Department of Defense Maintenance Depots, CRS In Focus, November 7, 2017

Potential Effects of a U.S. NAFTA Withdrawal: Agricultural Markets, November 13, 2017

State Exports to NAFTA Countries for 2016, CRS memorandum, n.d., October 24, 2017

Membership of the 115th Congress: A Profile, updated November 13, 2017

Drought in the United States: Causes and Current Understanding, updated November 9, 2017

Impact of the Budget Control Act Discretionary Spending Caps on a Continuing Resolution, CRS Insight, November 14, 2017

Saudi Arabia: Background and U.S. Relations, updated November 14, 2017

Jordan: Background and U.S. Relations, updated November 14, 2017

The Latest Chapter in Insider Trading Law: Major Circuit Decision Expands Scope of Liability for Trading on a “Tip”, CRS Legal Sidebar, November 14, 2017

In Any Way, Shape, or Form? What Qualifies As “Any Court” under the Gun Control Act?, CRS Legal Sidebar, November 14, 2017

Generalized System of Preferences: Overview and Issues for Congress, updated November 14, 2017

Trade Promotion Authority (TPA): Frequently Asked Questions, updated November 14, 2017

The Article V Convention to Propose Constitutional Amendments: Current Developments, November 15, 2017

President’s Power to Use Nuclear Weapons, & More from CRS

The President’s authority to use nuclear weapons — which is the subject of a congressional hearing today before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — was addressed in several recent publications of the Congressional Research Service.

A new CRS Legal Sidebar addresses the unresolved question: Can Congress Limit the President’s Power to Launch Nuclear Weapons?

A detailed new CRS memorandum examines “Legislation Limiting the President’s Power to Use Nuclear Weapons: Separation of Powers Implications.”

See also Defense Primer: President’s Constitutional Authority with Regard to the Armed Forces, CRS In Focus.

The uncertain scope of presidential authority to order the use of nuclear weapons was identified as a serious policy problem in 1984 by the late Jeremy J. Stone, then-president of the Federation of American Scientists. In an article published in Foreign Policy at the time, he concluded that “presidential first use [of nuclear weapons] is unlawful.”

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Other new and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act, November 8, 2017

The Rohingya Crises in Bangladesh and Burma, November 8, 2017

Lebanon, updated November 9, 2017

Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations in Brief, updated November 9, 2017

El Salvador: Background and U.S. Relations, updated November 3, 2017

Guatemala: Political and Socioeconomic Conditions and U.S. Relations, updated October 17, 2017

Why is Violence Rebounding in Mexico?, CRS Insight, November 8, 2017

Comprehensive Energy Planning for Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands, CRS Insight, November 6, 2017

Resolutions of Inquiry: An Analysis of Their Use in the House, 1947-2017, updated November 9, 2017

Government Printing, Publications, and Digital Information Management: Issues and Challenges, November 8, 2017

Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, CRS Insight, November 9, 2017

Natural Disasters of 2017: Congressional Considerations Related to FEMA Assistance, CRS Insight, November 2, 2017

Refugee Admissions and Resettlement Policy, updated November 7, 2017

U.S. Circuit and District Court Nominees Who Received a Rating of “Not Qualified” from the American Bar Association: Background and Historical Analysis, CRS Insight, November 9, 2017

Consumer and Credit Reporting, Scoring, and Related Policy Issues, updated November 3, 2017

The U.S. Science and Engineering Workforce: Recent, Current, and Projected Employment, Wages, and Unemployment, updated November 2, 2017

Some “Acting” Officials Will Soon Lose Authority

Some government officials who are serving on an “acting” basis because a permanent replacement has not yet been named will lose their ability to function this month when their legal authority is nullified under the terms of the Vacancies Act.

In the Trump Administration there are hundreds of government agency positions requiring Senate confirmation that have gone unfilled. In many cases, their responsibilities have been assumed by “acting” officials.

But by law, that arrangement can only be temporary. The Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998 specifies that “acting” officers can fill positions requiring confirmation for no more than 210 days. If the position is vacant at the start of a new Administration, an extension of 90 days is allowed, for a total of 300 days.

The 300 day period from Inauguration Day last January 20 will end on November 16, 2017. After that, certain acting officials will no longer be able to carry out their duties.

“If the acting officer remains in office and attempts to perform a nondelegable function or duty — one that a statute or regulation expressly assigns to that office — that action will ‘have no force or effect’,” according to a new brief from the Congressional Research Service.

See Out of Office: Vacancies, Acting Officers, and Day 301, CRS Legal Sidebar, November 1, 2017. See also The Vacancies Act: A Legal Overview, October 30, 2017.

President Trump does not appear to be concerned about the matter. Asked about high level vacancies in the State Department last week, he told Laura Ingraham of Fox that most of the government positions awaiting confirmed nominees were superfluous. “I’m the only one that matters,” he said.

Protected Status for Many Refugees Set to Expire

Updated below

US law provides temporary protected status (TPS) for certain foreign nationals in the United States who are fleeing armed conflict, natural disaster or other extreme circumstances in their native country.

But many refugees who have been granted such temporary status may soon have it revoked.

“The United States currently provides TPS to approximately 437,000 foreign nationals from 10 countries,” according to a newly updated report from the Congressional Research Service. Those countries are: El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. See Temporary Protected Status: Overview and Current Issues, updated November 2, 2017.

Unless renewed, TPS for persons from Haiti, Honduras and Nicaragua will expire in January 2018. The Washington Post reported that the Department of Homeland Security is expected to announce today that the expiring protections will not be renewed.

Update: The Department of Homeland Security announced on November 6 that Temporary Protected Status for Nicaraguan refugees will be revoked effective January 5, 2019. The TPS designation for Honduras has been extended for further review until July 5, 2018.

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Other new and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

El Salvador: Background and U.S. Relations, updated November 3, 2017

Clearing the Air on the Debt Limit, November 2, 2017

Public Private Partnerships (P3s) in Transportation, November 2, 2017

A Second Amendment Right to Sell Firearms? The Ninth Circuit, Sitting En Banc, Weighs In., CRS Legal Sidebar, November 2, 2017

Changes in the Arctic: Background and Issues for Congress, updated November 2, 2017

The National Science Foundation: FY2018 Appropriations and Funding History, November 2, 2017

The North Korean Nuclear Challenge, & More from CRS

North Korea’s rapidly maturing nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missile programs have prompted urgent reconsideration of what to do about them.

A new report from the Congressional Research Service identifies and examines seven possible directions for US policy, none of them risk-free or altogether satisfactory:

*    maintaining the military status quo
*    enhanced containment and deterrence
*    denying DPRK acquisition of delivery systems capable of threatening the US
*    eliminating ICBM facilities and launch pads
*    eliminating DPRK nuclear facilities
*    DPRK regime change
*    withdrawing U.S. military forces

For a copy of the 67-page report (which was first reported by Bloomberg News), see The North Korean Nuclear Challenge: Military Options and Issues for Congress, October 27, 2017.

Other new and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

Niger: Frequently Asked Questions About the October 2017 Attack on U.S. Soldiers, October 27, 2017

Taiwan: Issues for Congress, October 30, 2017

Doing Business with Iran: EU-Iran Trade and Investment Relations, CRS Insight, October 25, 2017

Renegotiating NAFTA and U.S. Textile Manufacturing, October 30, 2017

The Vacancies Act: A Legal Overview, October 30, 2017

Department of Health and Human Services Halts Cost-Sharing Reduction (CSR) Payments, CRS Legal Sidebar, October 26, 2017

GAO Issues Opinions on Applicability of Congressional Review Act to Two Guidance Documents, CRS Insight, October 25, 2017

Treasury Proposes Rule That Could Deliver a “Death Sentence” to Chinese Bank, CRS Legal Sidebar, October 30, 2017

The Opioid Epidemic, & More from CRS

President Trump will declare the escalating number of drug deaths from opioids as a “public health emergency” — but not a “national emergency” — in an announcement scheduled for today.

The Congressional Research Service has issued a new report on aspects of the problem, including an overview of opioid abuse, a review of opioid supply, and a survey of federal programs that deal with the issue. See The Opioid Epidemic and Federal Efforts to Address It: Frequently Asked Questions, October 18, 2017.

On the origins of the crisis, see “The Family That Built an Empire of Pain” by Patrick Radden Keefe, The New Yorker, October 30, 2017.

Other new and updated publications from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

Poverty in the United States in 2016: In Brief, October 25, 2017

EPA Proposes to Repeal the Clean Power Plan, CRS Legal Sidebar, October 25, 2017

Civilian Nuclear Waste Disposal, updated October 23, 2017

Gun Control: Silencers under the Hearing Protection Act (H.R. 3668), CRS Insight, October 16, 2017

Tracking Federal Funds: and Other Data Sources, updated October 24, 2017

Human Trafficking: New Global Estimates of Forced Labor and Modern Slavery, CRS Insight, October 18, 2017

U.S. Withdrawal from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), CRS Insight, October 17, 2017

Overview of “Travel Ban” Litigation and Recent Developments, CRS Legal Sidebar, October 23, 2017

Iran Policy and the European Union, CRS Insight, updated October 18, 2017

States’ Obligations Under Additional Protocols to IAEA Comprehensive Safeguards Agreements, CRS memorandum, October 23, 2017

A Look at U.S. Arms Sales to Middle East, & More from CRS

Some restrictions on U.S. arms sales to human rights violators in the Middle East have recently been relaxed by the Trump Administration, a new report from the Congressional Research Service noted.

“In early 2016, Bahrain submitted a request to purchase a number of F-16s [from the U.S.] and to upgrade its existing aircraft in a deal worth as much as $4 billion. However, when the Obama Administration informally pre-notified the sale to Congress, it explained that the sale would not move forward unless Bahrain took steps toward improving its record on human rights. The Trump Administration dropped those conditions in March 2017, even though U.N. investigators have asserted a ‘sharp deterioration’ of human rights over the past year in Bahrain. Congress was formally notified of the sale in September 2017.”

The use of self-imposed U.S. restriction on arms sales “as a mechanism to achieve changes in [foreign] behavior has questionable effectiveness and can have unintended consequences,” said CENTCOM Commander Gen. Joseph L. Votel in Senate testimony quoted by CRS. “We should avoid using the programs as a lever of influence or denial to our own detriment.”

The new CRS report describes and analyzes arms sales to seven Middle Eastern countries.

“The United States is the single largest arms supplier to the Middle East and has been for decades. However, other major producers like Russia, France, and China are also key players in the region. Their respective strategies and goals for arms sales appear to differ in some ways,” the report said.

See Arms Sales in the Middle East: Trends and Analytical Perspectives for U.S. Policy, October 11, 2017.

Other new and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), updated October 11, 2017

NAFTA Renegotiation and Modernization, October 12, 2017

Defense Primer: Military Pay Raise, CRS In Focus, updated October 10, 2017

The Army’s Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) Program, CRS Insight, October 10, 2017

U.S. Periods of War and Dates of Recent Conflicts, updated October 11, 2017

Instances of Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-2017, updated October 12, 2017