Guest post by Daniel Colbert (2L, Georgetown Law)
How does the shutdown affect consumers?
The short answer is that the shutdown likely won’t hurt consumers as much as it will hurt government employees, Head Start students, and panda-cam enthusiasts, but, still, it will put a significant damper on the government’s ability to protect consumers. Here are some details about how the shutdown will affect consumer agencies:
First, some good news. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is not subject to the appropriations process, so it will remain open, along with the Federal Reserve, the FDIC, and the OCC. The SEC is funded by Congressional appropriations, but it has enough funds carried over from the previous year to remain fully open for a few weeks. USDA meat and grain inspections will continue. And, of course, the healthcare exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act will begin to open today, completely unaffected by the shutdown. (The insurance purchase in those exchanges will become effective on January 1, 2014.)
Now for the bad news. The FDA will continue to issue high-risk recalls, but routine inspections will be suspended. FDA reviews of new drugs will also be delayed. The USDA will need to delay some major crop reports, which typically affect the price of corn, soybeans, wheat, and cotton. The Federal Housing Administration will also cease underwriting and approving loans to first-time homebuyers and low-to-moderate income borrowers. The Federal Trade Commission has already replaced its website with a static splash page informing consumers that they cannot file complaints or sign up for the Do Not Call list, and that FOIA requests will not be processed. The FTC will continue to review antitrust matters, but with a smaller staff than usual. The Department of Justice will furlough about 15% of its employees and will seek to postpone civil litigation to the extent possible (though criminal prosecutions will be deemed “essential”). Notably, the DOJ has already asked for a stay in its antitrust suit over the merger of US Airways and American Airlines, though it has said that antitrust actions will continue even if no delays are granted.