As gov't lurches toward shutdown, what will happen in Midlands? - - Columbia, South Carolina |

As gov't lurches toward shutdown, what will happen in Midlands?

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An effort to strip money from President Barack Obama's healthcare law was voted down Friday afternoon as a vote in the Senate went along party lines. It cleared the last obstacle to a Senate measure aimed at preventing a government shutdown.

However, it is still unclear is whether Congress will approve legislation preventing a shutdown by Tuesday. House GOP leaders have yet to determine how to win enough support to pass a new bill.

Speaking a short time ago, President Obama praised the vote in the Senate and urged the House to follow suit.

So what happens if a deal isn't completed in time?

It's been a while since we went through an extended government shutdown, but people of the Midlands who were around back in December 1995 and into the following year remember what that was like.

At the Strom Thurmond Federal Building in downtown Columbia, employees lost their paychecks on Dec. 15, just 10 days before Christmas. The money didn't start coming back until well after New Year's Day.

Some federal operations would not be affected if Congress fails to come up with a solution in the next few days. Soldiers at Fort Jackson for instance would be among those who would be considered essential employees and would not feel the sting of a shutdown. Included in that group is air traffic control and TSA operations at Columbia Metro and other airports. The FBI and federal law enforcement would also not be impacted.

But as one observer notes here in the Midlands, there are many civilian employees and contractors at military installations like Fort Jackson who could be affected in a profound way by a shutdown. That observer is former Mayor Patton Adams, who has a long history of involvement with Army functions in the Columbia area.

"We really are dependent on the military's presence here in Columbia and the Midlands of South Carolina; it's one of the legs of the table of our economy. The civilians who work there are very much part of that leg, and for there to be a government shutdown and the civilian community is put out of work, it has tremendous ripples throughout our economy and their lives," said Adams.  

Adams says he's already picked up some signals that some federal operations in the Columbia area are beginning to scale back or are at least contemplating how to handle a shutdown.

Much of this, though, is still speculative because we don't know what will happen in Washington this weekend.

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