D.C. shutdowns shed light on which employees matter most

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The inadvertent byproduct of a government shutdown is that it lets Americans in on a secret — they can do without many federal employees, at least for a short period of time.

Though a shutdown is no longer imminent this week as lawmakers approve a temporary extension of the budget, they are squabbling over the reach of proposed cuts to the federal budget and its potential impact.

If a deal is not reached, it could mean closing the doors on federal government. Or maybe not.

Washington’s agencies have long had contingency plans in place for how to operate on a skeleton crew if and when the money runs dry, a semi-regular occurrence in years past. And while Washington has not witnessed a significant shutdown since 1996, it and prior closures have given the public an idea of which gears the federal government considered truly critical to its day-to-day engine.

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