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While they can be kept on the job, federal workers cannot get paid for days worked while there is a lapse in funding. In the past, however, they have been repaid retrospectively even if they were ordered to stay home.
Federal workers are exempted from furloughs (leave of absences) if their jobs are national security-related or if they perform essential activities that "protect life and property".
According to a Democratic report on the Senate Appropriations Committee, more than 420,000 federal employees deemed essential would continue to work without pay during a partial shutdown, including about 41,000 law enforcement and corrections officers and nearly 150,000 Homeland Security employees.
Meanwhile, more than 380,000 employees will be furloughed — including nearly all of NASA and Housing and Urban Development and 41,000 Commerce Department employees.
About 16,000 National Park Service employees — 80 percent of the agency's workforce — will be furloughed, and many parks will close. Some parks already are closed for the winter.
At the Internal Revenue Service, 52,000 staffers will be furloughed, slowing analysis and collection of hundreds of thousands of tax returns and audits.
Way back in the day, shutdowns usually weren't that big a deal. They happened every year when Jimmy Carter was president, averaging 11 days each.
During President Reagan's two terms, there were six shutdowns, typically just one or two days apiece. Deals got cut. Everybody moved on.
Before a three-day lapse in January, caused by Democrats' insistence that any budget measure come with protections for young immigrants known as "dreamers," the most recent significant shutdown was a 16-day partial shuttering of the government in 2013.
That one came as Republican tea party conservatives tried to block implementation of Obama's health care law.
The government also shut down for a few hours in February amid a partisan dispute over deficit spending.
A partial government shutdown has started in the United States after Democrats refused to meet President Donald Trump's demands for billions of dollars to fund his long-promised Mexican border wall.
Mr Trump's top envoys were straining to broker a last-minute compromise with Democrats and some of their own Republican Party's politicians, with Vice-President Mike Pence, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and senior adviser Jared Kushner dashing back and forth at the Capitol.
The US House of Representatives and the Senate adjourned without a deal on spending, and senators were told there would be no more votes on Friday night.
The shutdown, which started at midnight local time (4:00pm Saturday AEDT), is expected to disrupt Government operations and leave hundreds of thousands of federal workers granted a leave of absence or forced to work without pay just days before Christmas.
At a White House bill signing, Mr Trump said the Government was "totally prepared for a very long shutdown".
Mr Trump blamed the Democrats for the shutdown, even though just last week he said he would be "proud" to shut part of the Government in a fight for the wall.
Campaigning for office two years ago, he had declared the wall would go up "so fast it will make your head spin". He also promised Mexico would pay for it, which Mexico has said it will never do.
"This is our only chance that we'll ever have, in our opinion, because of the world and the way it breaks out, to get great border security," Mr Trump said as the shutdown approached.
Democrats will take control of the House in January, and they oppose major funding for wall construction.
Mr Trump said he would accept money for a "steel slat barrier" with spikes on the top, which he said would be just as effective as a "wall" and "at the same time beautiful".
He convened Republican senators for a morning meeting, but the lengthy back-and-forth did not appear to set a strategy for moving forward.
A person granted anonymity because they were unauthorised to discuss the private session said the President would not get behind lower levels of funding the senators discussed. He has demanded $US5.7 billion.
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell returned to Capitol Hill and quickly set in motion a procedural vote on a House Republican package that would give Mr Trump the money he wants for the wall, but it was not expected to pass.
To underscore the difficulty, that Senate vote to proceed was stuck in a long holding pattern as senators were being recalled to Washington.
They had already approved a bipartisan package earlier this week that would continue existing border security funding, at $US1.3 billion, but without new money for Mr Trump's wall. Many were home for the holidays.
Only after a marathon five-hour delay did Mr Pence cast a tie-breaking vote that loosened the logjam, kickstarting negotiations that senators hoped could produce a resolution.
Democrat Steny Hoyer said it looked like a shutdown might not be avoidable, but top leaders were talking and he indicated any government disruption could be short.
Amid the impasse, Mr Pence and the others were dispatched to the Capitol to meet with Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, who told them that Mr Trump's demands for wall money would not pass the Senate, according to the senator's spokesman.
Mr Schumer told Mr Pence, Mr Mulvaney and Mr Kushner other offers to keep the Government running with existing levels of border security funds remained on the table.
The Senate was expected to reject the House measure because Democratic votes are needed and Mr McConnell showed little interest in changing the rules — as Mr Trump proposed — to allow a simple majority for passage.
One possibility was that the Senate might strip the border wall funds out of the package, pass it and send it back to the House. House politicians were told to remain in town on call.
Another idea was to revive an earlier bipartisan Senate bill with $US1.6 billion for border security but not the wall.
"The biggest problem is, we just don't know what the president will sign," Arizona senator Jeff Flake said.
Some senators were so vocally displeased about returning to Washington that Mr McConnell and others sported lapel buttons declaring them members of the "Cranky Senate Coalition".
Texas senator John Cornyn said he returned to his state on Thursday only to get back on an early Friday morning flight to Washington.
Democratic senator Brian Schatz flew all the way home to Hawaii, tweeting that he spent 17 minutes with his family, before returning on the 11-hour flight.
"Wheels down IAD ready to vote no on this stupid wall," Mr Schatz tweeted, referring to Dulles International Airport outside Washington.
Only a week ago, Mr Trump insisted during a televised meeting at the White House he would take ownership of a shutdown over his border wall.
"I will be the one to shut it down," he said.But shortly before the midnight deadline, he sought to reframe the debate and blame
Nancy Pelosi was the only adult in the room...
President Trump gets into a fiery meeting with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer on funding for a border wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. » Subscribe to CNBC: ht...
I would have given the title to Mike Pence, but after a while I think it became clear he had no idea what was going on.
Like assholes, we all have one.
US President Donald Trump said parts of the US Government will stay closed until Democrats meet his demands to fund his long-promised wall at the US-Mexico border.
In a Christmas Day appearance in the Oval Office (local time), Mr Trump issued a long defence of his desire for a wall, saying it was the only way to deter criminal elements such as stopping drugs and human traffickers from entering the country.
"We can't do it without a barrier. We can't do it without a wall," he said.
In a nod to the political stakes he has been facing, Mr Trump said he wants the wall by "election time" in 2020.
The promise of a border wall was a central component of Mr Trump's presidential campaign in 2016.
"I can't tell you when the government's going to be open. I can tell you it's not going to be open until we have a wall or fence, whatever they'd like to call it," Mr Trump said, referring to Democrats who staunchly oppose walling off the border.
"I'll call it whatever they want, but it's all the same thing."
Democrats oppose spending money on a wall, preferring instead to pump the dollars into fencing, technology and other means of controlling access to the border.
Mr Trump argued that Democrats oppose a wall only because he is for one.
The stalemate over how much to spend and how to spend it caused the partial government shutdown that began following a lapse in funding for departments and agencies that make up about 25 per cent of the government.
The government shutdown does not affect essential government agencies such as the FBI, Border Patrol and Medicare.
However, some 800,000 government workers are affected while some services that include parks and museums would be closed during the shutdown.
Many are on the job but must wait until after the shutdown to be paid again.
Mr Trump claimed that many of these workers "have said to me and communicated, 'stay out until you get the funding for the wall.' These federal workers want the wall. The only one that doesn't want the wall are the Democrats".
The US President did not say how he was hearing from federal workers, excluding those he appointed to their jobs or who work with him in the White House.
But many rank-and-file workers have gone to social media with stories of the financial hardship they expect to face because of the shutdown, now in its fourth day.
Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leaders of the Senate and Congress, said Mr Trump "wanted the shutdown, but he seems not to know how to get himself out it."
Mr Trump had said he'd be "proud" to shut down the government in a fight over the wall.
"It's a disgrace what's happening in our country but, other than that, I wish everybody a very merry Christmas," he said.
I was doing so well! Then I saw him tell a 7 year old girl there is no Santa.
More Americans blame President Donald Trump than congressional Democrats for the partial United States Government shutdown that is now in its sixth day and shows no signs of ending soon, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll.
Forty-seven per cent of adults hold Mr Trump responsible, while 33 per cent blame Democrats in Congress, according to the December 21-25 poll, conducted mostly after the shutdown began. Seven per cent of Americans blamed congressional Republicans.
The shutdown was triggered by Mr Trump's demand, largely opposed by Democrats and some lawmakers from his own Republican Party, that taxpayers provide him with US$5 billion ($7.1 billion) to help pay for a wall that he wants to build along the US-Mexico border.
Its total estimated cost is US$23 billion ($32 billion).
Only 25 per cent of those surveyed in the opinion poll said they supported Mr Trump shutting down the Government over the matter.
In a statement that made no mention of the border wall, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said: "The President has made clear that any bill to fund the Government must adequately fund border security".
On Twitter, Mr Trump has repeatedly lashed out at Democrats, blaming them for the shutdown and claiming that most public servants not receiving salaries are Democrats.
Earlier this month, he said he would be "proud to shut down the government" over wall funding.
Both chambers of Congress convened for less than three minutes late on Thursday (local time), with neither taking any action to end the shutdown before adjourning until next week.
Democratic Representative Jim McGovern tried to interrupt the brief Republican-run House session by offering a measure to reopen shuttered Government agencies and keep them running until February 8. But he was ignored and his microphone was soon cut off.
"That was a legitimate request and I should have been recognised," Mr McGovern told reporters later.
"They wouldn't even recognise me. This is the way they've been running this place."
While its impact has been limited so far, partly due to many of the 800,000 or so federal workers affected being on holidays, that could change soon.
Government agencies have begun notifying the public about service disruptions.
The Office of Personnel Management, which oversees the federal workforce, offered advice to Government employees on staving off creditors if paycheques lapse.
The wall dispute coincided with the expiration of funding for about 20 per cent of the Government. The remaining 80 per cent is fully funded and is unaffected by the shutdown.
The departments of Homeland Security, Justice, Agriculture, Commerce and other agencies, shut down "non-essential" operations on Saturday after a tentative funding deal collapsed over Mr Trump's renewed insistence that wall funding be provided.
The House has approved a shutdown-ending spending measure that includes Mr Trump's demand for $5 billion, but its prospects in the Senate are seen as poor.
The next firm action on the issue is likely to come on January 3, when the Democrats take majority control of the House.
At that time, Mr McGovern said, Democrats expect to offer a spending measure "plus probably disaster relief funding".
Speaking to reporters after the brief Senate session, Senator Pat Roberts said: "We on the Republican side do not want to vote for a bill the President won't sign".
Mr Trump argues that his wall is needed to stem illegal immigration and drugs entering the country — a key plank in his 2016 presidential campaign and, he hinted on Twitter, in 2020.
The Reuters/Ipsos poll gathered responses from 2,440 adults, including 946 Democrats and 846 Republicans across the US.