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Bracing for a Shutdown

Though the US House of Representatives has passed a stopgap measure to keep the federal government open ahead of tonight's deadline, the Senate has yet to vote, the New York Times reports. The deadline comes from a previous short-term spending bill that was passed in December, after lawmakers were unable to pass a budget bill for this fiscal year, which began in October. If Senate Republicans fail to secure enough votes for this temporary measure, the US federal government could shut down at midnight, it adds.

This, Nature News reports, has ramifications for science agencies. It notes that the effects "vary with the length of the closure and by agency," but that, for instance, federal employees cannot attend scientific conferences during a shutdown. For the 2013 shutdown, the National Institutes of Health postponed grant review and placed 80 percent of its employees on leave, Nature News says. It adds that though clinical trials continued, no new patients were enrolled.

In its shutdown plan for this year, NIH says 602 people would remain at work to care for animals and property, 586 to take care of ongoing experiments, and 2,233 to provide care to patients, according to Nature News.

Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, tells the Associated Press that the budget showdown is disheartening. "You have experiments that have been going on for months if not years, and then all of a sudden you've got to stop — you can't do that," Fauci says.