Shutdown, But Not Out: GR Will Continue If Government Closes

Barring an eleventh-hour deal, the federal government could be heading toward its first shutdown since 1996. Even if the feds close their doors, association government relations departments will stay open for business.

Again and again, Congress has flirted with budget deals and deadlines but, since the shutdown debacles of the mid-1990s, it has always managed to cobble together a last-minute deal to keep the government running. Many political pundits are grim on the prospects that such a deal will be struck by October 1.

That reality may leave association government relations departments wondering, “Without a government to relate to, what are we supposed to do?”

“A large portion of any effective government relations program is to educate and inform members about the facts of what’s going on in the halls of Congress, in the White House, and globally,” said Michelle Sara King, manager of government relations for the International Trademark Association (INTA). “GR encompasses many different priorities and goals beyond just working with Congress—we work with agencies, we work with state, federal, and international governments, so our work is global and will continue.”

King said she will closely monitor the situation in Washington and continue to provide updates to INTA’s members. “During a shutdown, it’ll be important for any association to share information with leadership and provide insight to members on what they can do and how this might affect their work,” she said.

Stefanie Reeves, CAE, senior legislative and federal affairs officer at the American Psychological Association, said association GR departments probably won’t see a drastic change in their workflow.

“The real government shutdown isn’t going to occur on October 1—it has already happened,” Reeves said. “This Congress hasn’t been as active as we would like them to be, and so we have already had to reposition ourselves as far as strategy, as far as grassroots advocacy, as far as our own work as lobbyists going up on the Hill.”

Although advocacy work will continue, a shutdown may mean a shift in perspective to focus on longer-term goals, said Reeves.

“You’re not going to try to get support for a particular piece of legislation right now, but maybe our work in the immediate future is planning for the more distant future,” she said. “Government relations work won’t end. In fact, I think a shutdown would make us work a little bit harder at a time when we already having to work harder because of the gridlock in Congress.”

How will your association’s GR department adjust if the government shutdown becomes a reality? Share your thoughts in the comments.


Rob Stott

By Rob Stott

Rob Stott is a contributing editor for Associations Now. MORE

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