December 18, 2020 Notes

Government Contracting and Emergency Powers in the Age of Government Shutdowns

Tanner Slaughter
Until long-lasting solutions are developed to address political stalemates, government shutdowns will continue to wreak havoc

Until long-lasting solutions are developed to address political stalemates, government shutdowns will continue to wreak havoc

Getty Images

Abstract: In late 2018 and early 2019, the United States saw the longest government shutdown in history. While the shutdown made headlines as political news around the country, for many individuals it represented a loss of work, and for government contractors it resulted in billions of dollars in lost revenue. This Note focuses on the impact of government shutdowns on government contractors and suggests a novel solution: Congress should enact statutory emergency authority, available only in the event of a lengthy funding gap, enabling the President to make funds available immediately for the payment of government contractors. This statute would alleviate the strain that government shutdowns place on contractors and their employees. This Note explores the constitutional and statutory issues that may arise from the enactment of such a statute and argues that such a power would be within Congress’ delegatory authority to enact and the President’s executive authority to carry out.

I. Introduction

Government shutdowns are neither new nor unusual to most Americans.1 Until long-lasting solutions are developed to address the political stalemates and consequent budgetary crises that regularly plague the United States, shutdowns will continue to wreak havoc—not only on the federal government and on Americans’ trust in their political leadership,2 but also on the ordinary people who depend on government funds for their livelihood.3 Employees of government contractors are uniquely vulnerable to effects of a government shutdown because, like federal government employees, they are reliant on appropriated money for their work, but often lack the protections afforded to federal employees in the event of a furlough.4

Premium Content For:
  • Public Contract Law Section
Join - Now