Sniping’s the Only Thing Not Shut Down in the Federal Government

Even the Panda Cam has gone dark

When the government shutdown looked like a foregone conclusion, Federal Trade Commission officials on the agenda for the Advertising Self-Regulatory Council’s annual conference in New York had to cut their attendance short Monday night. (One was even told she needed to make sure she removed the yogurt from the agency refrigerator.) Like others serving in the federal government, FTC-ers were told to hightail it back to Washington to prepare for the shutdown.

While consumers fretted over how the blackout might impact the economy, the FTC and the Federal Communications Commission—agencies that regulate the advertising and telecommunications and media businesses—took the allotted four hours Tuesday morning to execute plans put into place last Friday when the blackout loomed. Both the FTC and FCC websites have shut down

By late Monday morning, agency Twitter accounts posted messages that the accounts would not be actively managed during the shutdown.

Congress sent out press statements that hearings scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday were “postponed.”

And yes, even the National Zoo was forced to shut down the Panda Cam, much to the dismay of the public and Washington insiders always looking for a little relief from a dysfunctional Congress.

Under the shutdown, all federal agencies, including the FTC and the FCC, have to cease all activities other than those immediately necessary for the protection of life or property. At the FCC, that means the agencies can’t take consumer complaints, issue or review broadcast licenses, or manage the nation’s airwaves. Of the FCC’s 1,754 employees, only 38 will be working, about 2 percent of the agency’s total workforce.

Of the FTC’s 1,178 employees, as many as 248 could be exempt from the furlough. Those responsible for law enforcement cases in litigation will need to notify the courts about the shutdown and attempt to negotiate suspensions for hearings and filings. The commission also has to determine what to do about pending merger reviews and consumer protection cases. There will be no rulemaking, investigations or research, no workshops, roundtables or hearings.

Whether or not the shutdown delays the FCC’s ability to plan the details for the pending auction of wireless spectrum, or the FTC’s ability to plan for its workshop on native advertising or Internet of things, depends on how long it lasts.

For those who want the real nitty-gritty, the White House has posted this list of all the federal agency plans. 

Meanwhile, the one thing that won’t be shut down is the sniping. That's a Washington constant that appears to have no end.