What functions of the federal government that the Teahdis wouldn’t want shut down could reasonably be deemed non-essential? The rule, as I understand it, is that if shutting something down would immediately threaten life or property, it’s essential. Else, not.
The design problem is to come up with a list of shut-down targets legitimate under that definition and adverse enough to Republican interests to make the threat of a shutdown non-credible.
My #1 target so far is the air traffic control and airport-security operations of the FAA and the TSA. There’s no threat to life or property if the planes don’t take off. I don’t know how much it would cost Koch Industries and the other industrial paymasters of the Republican Party generally and the Tea Party specifically if air traffic were shut down for a week, but I bet those folks have enough power with the GOP to prevent us from finding out the hard way.
With an army in the field, keeping it fighting and keeping it supplied are obviously “essential.” (Again, I doubt the constitutionality of continuing to spend money on the army – as opposed, for example, to the navy – without an appropriation. But let that pass for the moment.)
But how much of the rest of DoD is actually “essential”? Recruiting? Other personnel actions, except those involving those in or going to the war zone? Public relations? Legislative affairs? The Blue Angels? The military bands?
Similarly, running the Federal prisons is essential. Those sentences are court orders, and the prisoners need to be guarded and fed. But can it really be said that a current investigation or prosecution is “essential for the protection of life and property”? I doubt it.
Your thoughts? And if anyone can point to the lists from last time, that would be helpful.