WASHINGTON - If Congress doesn't pass a new spending bill in the next week, the federal government will shut down on Oct. 1.
That is, 41% of it will.
An estimated 59% of non-defense federal employees would be exempt from the shutdown and would go to work as usual, according to a USA TODAY analysis of 119 shutdown contingency plans filed with the Office of Management and Budget.
Among them: political appointees, law enforcement, most overseas foreign service officers and anyone else deemed necessary for health or safety of people or property.
That last category can account for a broad cross-section of federal employees, because positions that support a key function - such as information technology, security or even legal help - are also protected. Even a receptionist responsible for picking up sensitive mail deliveries could be considered essential and exempted from furlough.
Maintaining an agency website usually isn't a necessary function, although the Office of Management and Budget said this month that the IRS website may be necessary "to allow for tax filings and tax collection." That's one key difference from the last government shutdown in 1996, when agencies were less reliant on the Web.
"Where those lines are drawn can change from time to time," said Ray Natter, a former deputy chief counsel of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. And the two government agencies responsible for interpreting the law on who's essential and who's not - the Office of Legal Counsel and the Comptroller General - often give inconsistent advice, he said.