That's because most department employees fall into exempted categories of workers who stay on the job in a shutdown because they perform work considered necessary to protect human life and property. Even in a shutdown, most workers across agencies, including the Secret Service, Transportation Security Administration, Federal Emergency Management Agency and Customs and Border Protection, would continue to report to work.
Indeed, of the agency's approximately 230,000 employees, some 200,000 of them would keep working even if Congress fails to fund their agency. It's a reality that was on display during the 16-day government-wide shutdown in the fall of 2013, when national parks and monuments closed but essential government functions kept running, albeit sometimes on reduced staff.Airport security checkpoints would remain staffed, the Secret Service would continue to protect the president and other dignitaries, the Coast Guard would stay on patrol, immigration agents would still be on the job.
So what of the sometimes overheated rhetoric, often from Democrats trying to prove a political point?
"If this goes to shutdown," Mikulski said, "this could close down ports up and down the East Coast, because if you don't have a Coast Guard, you don't have the ports. You don't have the ports, you don't have an economy."
But if the department loses its money, the Coast Guard will stay in operation and so will the ports.
There would be one big change, though. Most workers would not get paid until the shutdown ends, a circumstance guaranteed to put pressure on members of Congress hearing from constituents angry about going without their paychecks