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White House seeks list of programs that would be hurt if shutdown lasts into March

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 1/24/2019 Damian Paletta, Juliet Eilperin
White House Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney watches as U.S. President Donald Trump welcomes the 2018 College Football Playoff National Champion Clemson Tigers in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., January 14, 2019. © Joshua Roberts/Reuters White House Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney watches as U.S. President Donald Trump welcomes the 2018 College Football Playoff National Champion Clemson Tigers in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., January 14, 2019.

White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney has pressed agency leaders to provide him with a list of the highest-impact programs that will be jeopardized if the shutdown continues into March and April, people familiar with the directive said.

Mulvaney wants the list no later than Friday, these people said, and it’s the firmest evidence to date that the White House is preparing for a lengthy funding lapse that could have snowballing consequences for the economy and government services.

The request is the first known inquiry from a top White House official seeking information about the spreading impact of the shutdown, which has entered its fifth week and is the longest in U.S. history. So far, top White House officials have been particularly focused on lengthening wait times at airport security, but not the sprawling interruption of programs elsewhere in the government.

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The people spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose Mulvaney’s demand.

The shutdown has already caused the federal government to stop paying 800,000 employees, but the impact is expected to become exponentially broader in the coming weeks. The federal court system is likely to halt major operations after February 1, and the Department of Agriculture does not have funding to pay food stamp benefits in March to roughly 40 million people.

The White House also faces a backlash from many federal workers, who face missing a second consecutive paycheck in the coming days. Some workers have balked at continuing without being paid, and their unions are filing legal action against the administration.

And there were new signs on Wednesday that federal agencies are still trying to comprehend the scope of their growing problems. The U.S. General Services Administration, an agency that manages many of the government’s leases and contracts, notified a number of departments that it doesn’t have a plan for how it can pay utility and lease payments in February if the shutdown persists. Many federal agencies lease space in commercial buildings around the country, and if the GSA can’t make rental payments it could incur major fees and other costs. This could also have a big impact on the property owners, which rely on large government payments for their income.

Meanwhile, the White House Office of Management and Budget has tried to take multiple steps to blunt the impact of the shutdown, and this week it sent guidance to agencies that would make it easier for some federal contractors to receive payments.

Senior OMB officials have tried to serve as a clearinghouse for agency leaders as they work to deal with the repercussions of the shutdown, but Mulvaney’s direct involvement reflects how the White House is now attempting to understand the longer-term implications. A senior administration official, speaking on the condition of Anonymity to discuss the directive, said it was an attempt by Mulvaney to have agency leaders focused on the problems that will arise if Congress doesn’t pass a spending bill soon.

damian.paletta@washpost.com

juliet.eilperin@washpost.com

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