Dec. 22, 2018 by David Silverberg
Updated 4:30 pm
As though to mark the winter solstice, a chill descended on the United States at midnight when President Donald Trump refused to accept any form of compromise with Congress and a quarter of the federal government shut down for lack of funding.
Affected federal departments are Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, State, Transportation and Treasury, which were dependent on passage of a funding bill to maintain operations. Agencies include Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Prisons, Customs and Border Protection, the Internal Revenue Service, and all national parks, forests, preserves and wildlife refuges.
In Southwest Florida, Everglades National Park, J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, the Panther National Wildlife Refuge and Big Cypress National Preserve are immediately affected.
An announcement on national park websites states that while parks may be accessible to visitors, that access may change without notice. Some may close completely. Some visitor services may be available but there will be no National Park services available such as visitor assistance, tours, restrooms, trash collection, facilities or road maintenance. Private concessionaires may be serving food. Also, National Park websites may not be updated or reflect current conditions.
A full listing of contingency plans for Department of the Interior operations is available on the department’s website, DOI.gov.
Local Department of Homeland Security agencies include the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the US Coast Guard.
Victoria Moreland, Department Director for Communications and Marketing at Florida Southwest International Airport (RSW) and the Lee County Port Authority, informed The Paradise Progressive that RSW operations are unaffected since TSA and Federal Aviation Administration employees are essential personnel and therefore exempt from the shutdown.
The Coast Guard, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, operates a station at Fort Myers Beach. As of 3:00 am, no response had been received regarding its scope of operations.
The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), which operates the Hoover Dike on Lake Okeechobee, announced on its website: “Prudent management requires that the government plan for the possibility of a lapse in appropriations. USACE is working with [Office of Management and Budget] to take appropriate action. This includes reviewing relevant legal requirements and updating our plan for executing an orderly shutdown. Determinations about specific programs are being actively reviewed.”
The extent and duration of other closures will depend on the duration of the impasse with President Trump, who said he was “totally prepared for a very long shutdown.” The longer the shutdown, the greater the likelihood that additional government services, agencies and installations will be affected.
On Dec. 11, in a meeting with Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Calif.) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), President Trump publicly stated that he would assume the blame in the event of a government shutdown: “I will take the mantle of shutting down, and I’m going to shut it down for border security,” he said.
Since then, he has sought to cast the blame on Democrats.