McCain replacement Sen. Jon Kyl resigning at end of year

Sen. Jon Kyl is resigning from the seat he was appointed to less than four months ago following the death of John McCain, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced Friday. Kyl's decision means the Republican governor will need to appoint another replacement lawmaker. The decision by Kyl, 76, was not unexpected. He had retired from the … Continue reading “McCain replacement Sen. Jon Kyl resigning at end of year”

Sen. Jon Kyl is resigning from the seat he was appointed to less than four months ago following the death of John McCain, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced Friday. Kyl's decision means the Republican governor will need to appoint another replacement lawmaker.

The decision by Kyl, 76, was not unexpected. He had retired from the Senate in 2012 and said when he took the appointment in September that he only committed to serving until the end of the year. His resignation is effective Dec. 31.

Ducey sidestepped selecting a longer-term replacement after McCain died on Aug. 25, saying he picked Kyl because he was "the best possible person, regardless of politics" for the job. But Kyl made it clear he only agreed to the appointment out of a sense of duty and had no plans to stay in the job for long.

The choice of the well-respected former senator to fill McCain's seat allowed the Republican governor to avoid controversy in the midst of his re-election bid, but also nearly assured that another vacancy would come soon. Now all attention is on Ducey's pick, who will serve until a special election in 2020 allows voters to select the person who fills the final two years of McCain's six-year term.

Ducey said he will pick a replacement "in the near future."

Speculation has centered on Ducey's former chief of staff, Kirk Adams, a former state lawmaker who recently resigned from the governor's office; Rep. Martha McSally, who narrowly lost the race for the state's other U.S. Senate seat in November; and Arizona State Treasurer Eileen Klein.

Excited about McSally's defeat and the election of Kyrsten Sinema as Arizona's first Democratic senator since the 1990s, several Democrats are already thought to be testing the waters to run in 2020 for the seat. The list includes U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego, former astronaut Mark Kelly and former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods, who left the GOP and became a Democrat this year.

Kyl's brief resignation letter said he decided to resign at the end of 2018 so that Ducey's new appointee "can begin the new term with all other senators in January 2019 and can serve a full two (potentially four) years."

Kyl noted that when he accepted Ducey's appointment that he agreed to serve through December and then re-evaluate whether to serve longer.

"Senator Kyl didn't need to return to the Senate," Ducey said in a statement. "His legacy as one of Arizona's most influential and important political figures was already without question. But he did return, and I remain deeply grateful for his willingness to step up and serve again when Arizona needed him. I wish him and his family all the best."

McCain died at age 81 at his ranch near Sedona, Arizona just over a year after he announced he had glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer that came with a dire diagnosis.

Elizabeth Warren admits she’s not ‘a person of color’ during commencement speech

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Friday said she is "not a person of color," during a commencement speech at a historically black college.

“As a country, we need to stop pretending that the same doors open for everyone, because they don’t,” she said during a commencement speech at Morgan State University in Baltimore, according to the Washington Post.

“I’m not a person of color,” she continued. “And I haven’t lived your life or experienced anything like the subtle prejudice, or more overt harm, that you may have experienced just because of the color of your skin.”

"I’m not a person of color. And I haven’t lived your life or experienced anything like the subtle prejudice, or more overt harm, that you may have experienced just because of the color of your skin."

— Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren

The acknowledgment from the Democrat, who’s been making concrete steps to prepare for her 2020 presidential run, came after a months-long agony of trying to refute criticism that she falsely claimed Native American heritage.

Warren insists she never used Native American heritage to gain advantage, though she listed herself as a “minority” before the University of Pennsylvania offered her a job, according to the Boston Globe. She later asked the university to change her listed identity as “Native American.”

In October, she released her DNA analysis results that showed “strong evidence” that she has a Native American ancestor dating back six to 10 generations.

The analysis claims that if Warren’s great-great-great-grandmother were Native American, Warren would be considered 1/64 Native American. Should Warren’s ancestor date back 10 generations, the senator would be only 1/1,024 Native American.

Video

WARREN RELEASES DNA ANALYSIS ON NATIVE AMERICAN HERITAGE, FIRING BACK AT TRUMP ATTACKS

But the DNA analysis results only emboldened Warren’s critics, who say President Trump and the nickname he gave to the senator – “Pocahontas” – was apt because the results didn’t prove Warren was really a Native American.

“To put that in perspective, Warren might even be less Native American than the average European American,” Republican National Committee Deputy Communications Director Mike Reed told Fox News in October, while saying this would “not give you the right to claim minority status.”

The Cherokee Nation also criticized Warren.

"A DNA test is useless to determine tribal citizenship. Using a DNA test to lay claim to any connection to the Cherokee Nation or any tribal nation, even vaguely, is inappropriate and wrong."

— Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr

“A DNA test is useless to determine tribal citizenship,” Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr., said. “Using a DNA test to lay claim to any connection to the Cherokee Nation or any tribal nation, even vaguely, is inappropriate and wrong.”

The DNA results rollout reportedly irked Warren who now may be regretting the move as rather than closing the matter, it only invited more attacks against her, according to the New York Times.

Video

Warren reportedly expressed concerns that the stunt only ruined her relationship with the Native American community. Outside advisers also told the newspaper that the issue won’t go away and she will have to tackle it again on the campaign trail.

WARREN MAY BE REGRETTING DNA ANALYSIS ON NATIVE AMERICAN HERITAGE, REPORT SAYS

Yet Warren’s chances of having a viable path to presidency in 2020 appear to be dwindling after the Boston Globe’s editorial board said the Democrat is too divisive to run for president.

“While Warren is an effective and impactful senator with an important voice nationally, she has become a divisive figure,” the editorial stated. “A unifying voice is what the country needs now after the polarizing politics of Donald Trump.”

Lukas Mikelionis is a reporter for FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @LukasMikelionis.

Kamala Harris’ DOJ received misconduct claim involving aide months before she left: report

Sen. Kamala Harris insisted earlier this month that she was “unaware” of the harassment allegations against her top aide during her time as California’s Attorney General, but the agency that she oversaw: California's Department of Justice was informed about the complaint three months before she exited in early 2017, according to the Sacramento Bee.

Larry Wallace, the longtime aide who went to Washington with Harris, resigned earlier this month after the newspaper asked about the 2017 settlement with Danielle Hartley, a woman who made the accusations. Harris’ senate office said the senator had no knowledge of the alleged harassment.

"We were unaware of this issue and take accusations of harassment extremely seriously. This evening, Mr. Wallace offered his resignation to the senator, and she accepted it."

— Sen. Kamala Harris spokeswoman Lily Adams

“We were unaware of this issue and take accusations of harassment extremely seriously,” Harris spokeswoman Lily Adams said. “This evening, Mr. Wallace offered his resignation to the senator, and she accepted it.”

KAMALA HARRIS AIDE RESIGNS OVER $400G HARASSMENT SETTLEMENT

On Friday, Harris – who’s mulling her 2020 presidential run – told the newspaper that she took “full responsibility for what happened in my office.”

She went on to reiterate that she wasn’t aware of the allegations against Wallace and said she was “frustrated” by the “breakdown” in the system.

“That’s what makes me upset about this. There’s no question I should have been informed about this. There’s no question. And there were ample opportunities when I could have been informed,” she added.

"That’s what makes me upset about this. There’s no question I should have been informed about this. There’s no question. And there were ample opportunities when I could have been informed."

— Sen. Kamala Harris

But some expressed skepticism that Harris had no idea of the harassment caused by Wallace. GOP Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel wrote in a tweet that the senator was either “lying or grossly incompetent.”

“No one is buying Kamala Harris’s claim she didn’t know her top aide of 14 yrs was accused of sexual harassment, resulting in a $400K settlement,” she wrote.

According to the report, an intake form from the Equal Employment Rights and Resolution Office, which administers the issues concerning discrimination at the state DOJ, reveals that the department was alerted on Oct. 3, 2016 that Hartley will pursue legal action.

Hartley had also already requested the right to sue from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, the Bee reported. Her complaint, filed a month earlier, detailed the allegations of sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation – naming Wallace and “those who worked for him” as the culprit.

KAMALA HARRIS TO KEEP SEAT ON SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE, BOOSTING POTENTIAL 2020 BID

The lawsuit filed by the woman alleged that Wallace demeaned her based on her gender while she worked for him as his assistant.

She said Wallace placed his computer printer under his desk and often asked her to crawl under and refill it with paper as he sat and watched, sometimes with other men in the room. Wallace refused to move the printer to another location when Hartley asked him to do so, according to the suit.

The lawsuit also claims Wallace instructed Hartley to run his personal errands such as booking flights for his children and washing and performing maintenance on his car. When she would return from the assigned tasks, the lawsuit states, “co-workers would make hostile comments to her including, ‘Are you walking the walk of shame?’”

Hartley claims she tried to solve the matter internally, reporting the harassment allegations in 2011, but this only prompted retaliations against her. She was involuntarily transferred to another office at the state Department of Justice at the end of 2014, the suit said.

The lawsuit was settled for $400,000 in May 2017, just two months after Wallace went to work for Harris as her senior adviser.

Lukas Mikelionis is a reporter for FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @LukasMikelionis.

Senate passes overhaul of sexual harassment claim process

The Senate has passed a bill to overhaul the process for handling sexual assault and harassment claims in Congress.

The bill holds lawmakers, including those who leave office, financially liable for settlements resulting from harassment and retaliation. It also eliminates mandatory counseling and mediation for victims, and gets rid of a "cooling off" period that they are now required to observe before filing a lawsuit or requesting an administrative hearing.

The push for the legislation took on new urgency in the past year as more than a half-dozen lawmakers resigned amid allegations of sexual misconduct.

The legislation passed the Senate Thursday by unanimous consent. It is expected to pass the House before the end of the year and be signed into law by President Trump.

Senate rebukes Saudis: Lawmakers pull support for Yemen war, blame crown prince for Khashoggi death

The Senate on Thursday passed a resolution calling on the U.S. to end military assistance for the Saudi-led coalition’s war in Yemen against Iran-backed Houthis, in a bipartisan vote that saw Republicans break with President Trump.

The Senate voted 56-41 for the measure, which came as U.N. negotiators hashed out a ceasefire between the two sides in talks in Sweden and amid continued controversy over the killing of activist Jamal Khashoggi. All Democrats voted aye, and were joined by seven Republicans — including  Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Rand Paul, R-Ky. Three senators, all Republicans, did not vote.

In a second Saudi rebuke, a joint resolution saying Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman was responsible for the killing of Khashoggi passed by a voice vote.

The Yemen resolution was sponsored by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah. Although Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and most Republicans opposed it, it managed to pick up enough votes to pass.

Sanders described the vote as an “historic moment” and thanked senators for saying “the U.S. will no longer participate in the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen which has caused the worst humanitarian crisis on earth with 85,000 children starving to death.”

Republicans and key officials in the Trump administration had urged the Senate not to pass such a resolution, and have tried to uphold the U.S.-Saudi alliance amid international fallout over Khashoggi's brutal killing at the hands of Saudi operatives. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters last week that a resolution could damage the U.N.-led peace talks.

“It is the view of the administration … that passing a resolution at this point undermines that, it would encourage the Houthis, it would encourage the Iranians, and it would undermine the fragile agreement for everyone to go to Sweden and have this discussion,” he said.

Tens of thousands of people are believed to have been killed in the Yemen conflict, which began when the Houthis ousted the Yemen government in 2014. Two-thirds of Yemen’s 27 million population rely on aid and more than 8 million are at risk of starvation.

The U.S. is not directly involved in the civil war, but provides assistance to the Saudi-led coalition, including intelligence sharing and weapons sales.

There has been increased scrutiny of that support in the wake of Khashoggi's murder at a Saudi consulate in Turkey. U.S. intelligence agencies reportedly have concluded that bin Salman must have at least known about the plan to kill Khashoggi, though Trump has appeared to doubt that assessment.

“King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman vigorously deny any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi. Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” Trump said in a statement last month.

Members of the House were given a classified briefing on Khashoggi's killing earlier Thursday by Defense Secretary James Mattis and Pompeo.

Fox News' Chad Pergram contributed to this report.

Adam Shaw is a reporter covering U.S. and European politics for Fox News.. He can be reached here.

Deal struck on Capitol Hill sexual-harassment reform legislation

Congress reached an agreement Wednesday over a new sexual harassment policy aimed at holding lawmakers personally responsible for harassment and retaliation.

The bipartisan agreement markss the largest overhaul of the sexual harassment policy on Capitol Hill since 1995.

A joint statement from Committee on House Administration Chairman Gregg Harper, R-Miss., and ranking member Robert Brady, D-Pa., along with House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., confirmed a bipartisan agreement was reached. "We believe this is a strong step towards creating a new standard in Congress that will set a positive example in our nation, but there is still more work to be done," their statement read.

The new rules would hold members of the Senate and House personally liable, requiring them to pay for awards and settlements stemming from acts of harassment and related retaliation they personally commit. This also applies

The deal has bolstered reporting efforts of such incidents, making it easier to make claims. Also, anyone making a claim is granted access to counsel.

HOUSE PASSES FARM BILL WITHOUT TIGHTER WORK REQUIREMENTS FAVORED BY TRUMP

Other measures in the agreement require mandatory training for all lawmakers and staff, the creation of the Office of Employee Advocacy and setting minimum requirements for each office with respect to anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies.

“This bipartisan, bicameral agreement sends a clear message that harassment in any form will not be tolerated by the Congress,” Senate Rules Committee Chairman Roy Blunt, R- Mo., said in a statement. "The reforms in this agreement will, most importantly, strengthen protections for victims and hold Members of Congress personally accountable for their misconduct."

REP. MARK MEADOWS OUT OF THE RUNNING FOR WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF

Sources told Fox News that lawmakers are trying to get an agreement in the Senate Wednesday night, in which case the House would likely approve the measure Thursday.

The policy change comes as some members of Congress were forced to resign last year in the wake of the #MeToo movement.

Fox News’ Mike Emanuel and Chad Pergram contributed to this report.

Paulina Dedaj is a writer/ reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter @PaulinaDedaj.

Menendez and Graham announce resolution on Saudi Arabia in wake of Khashoggi killing

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a resolution on Wednesday proposed by Sens. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Todd Young, R-Ind., that would suspend weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and impose sanctions on people blocking humanitarian access in Yemen, among other actions following the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey.

Menendez, who was joined at a press conference on Capitol Hill by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and other lawmakers, said the legislation will pass when it comes to a full vote in the Senate and that it is meant to hold Saudi leaders accountable for human rights abuses.

“This sends a global message that just because you’re an ally of the United States, you can’t kill with impunity,” Menendez said.

Video

The announcement of the bipartisan piece of legislation comes just hours after CIA Director Gina Haspel briefed leaders in the House on the Khashoggi killing.

Khashoggi, who had lived in the U.S. and wrote for The Washington Post, had been critical of the Saudi regime. He was killed in what U.S. officials have described as an elaborate plot as he visited a consulate in Istanbul for marriage paperwork that was approved by Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Saudi prosecutors have said a 15-man team sent to Istanbul killed Khashoggi with tranquilizers and then dismembered his body, which has not been found. Those findings came after Saudi authorities spent days denying Khashoggi had been killed in the consulate.

“The relationship with Saudi Arabia is not working for America,” Graham said. “It is more of a burden than an asset.”

Graham added: The crown prince [of Saudi Arabia] is so toxic, so tainted, so flawed.”

The Senate is expected to vote next week on the Yemen resolution, but senators are wrestling with how to limit amendments to prevent a freewheeling floor debate that would allow votes on unrelated issues.

Video

It appears unlikely that the House would be willing to consider either measure. A provision that was part of a House rule that narrowly passed Wednesday would make it harder for lawmakers there to call up a Yemen resolution if the Senate passes it.

Democrats are likely to be more aggressive on Saudi issues when they take the House majority in January. The top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, California Rep. Adam Schiff, said he intends to lead a "deep dive" into Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, the likely incoming chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he would hold hearings on Saudi Arabia early next year.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said the chamber will have a briefing from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis next week on Khashoggi and "we'll know more after that."

Video

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said he supports the Menendez legislation, but that he has suggested some changes to it to Menendez, who is the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations panel.

Pressed on a response to Saudi Arabia, the president has said the United States "intends to remain a steadfast partner" of the country, touted Saudi arms deals worth billions of dollars to the U.S. and thanked the country for plunging oil prices.

"It could very well be that the crown prince had knowledge of this tragic event," Trump said in a lengthy statement Nov. 20. "Maybe he did, and maybe he didn't!"

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Trump says criminal justice reform legislation will pass, after McConnell vows to bring bill to Senate floor

President Trump said Tuesday he believes the criminal justice reform bill will pass, after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, under pressure, vowed to bring the legislation to the Senate floor for a vote as early as this week.

McConnell, R-Ky., made the decision after more than three years of bipartisan congressional support for the policy that would overhaul the nation’s sentencing laws. The bill has been supported by a large group of lawmakers, including Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

McConnell announced Tuesday that "at the request of the President and following improvements to the legislation that have been secured by several members, the Senate will take up the recently revised Criminal Justice bill" this work period. McConnell's office noted that the bill could be taken up "as early as the end of this week."

"Members should now be prepared to work between Christmas and New Year's if necessary in order to complete our work," McConnell announced. Because the bill has been revised, the Senate would need to bounce it back to the House. In January, Democrats take back the majority in that chamber of Congress, while the Senate maintains a GOP hold.

The president applauded McConnell's decision to move the bill to the floor. Trump first announced his support for the legislation last month.

“We got word that Mitch McConnell, we’re putting up for a vote,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office Tuesday. “Criminal Justice Reform is something people have been working on for many years. It looks like it is going to be passing in a bipartisan way.”

Video

If the legislation passes, it could be considered a rare bipartisan policy achievement for Congress and the largest sentencing overhaul in decades.

The bill has been a top priority for the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, who has been working behind the scenes as a liaison between the White House and Congress for the last two years.

In an exclusive interview with Fox News’ “Hannity” Monday night, Kushner touted his work spearheading the bill, which he said was “very close” to becoming law. He said the bill would reduce mandatory prison terms for certain drug crimes and give judges in some cases more discretion on punishments.

It additionally would allow about 2,600 federal prisoners sentenced for crack-cocaine offenses before August 2010 the opportunity to petition for reduced penalties, and would include provisions to encourage education and workforce training in prisons. Roughly 90 percent of prison inmates are held in state facilities and would not be affected by the legislation.

“This bill will accomplish a lot to make our communities safer,” Kushner said. “The recidivism rate that we have is way too high, and not doing anything about that is irresponsible. And we’re allowing people to go back to our communities who we can help, and there’s a lot of programs based in red states that we’ve really modeled this off of, so we know this works.”

One of the red states Kushner referenced is Texas. Cornyn also touted the state program, noting it is “proof positive that you can close the revolving door of incarceration, reduce crime, and save taxpayer dollars at the same time.”

Kushner explained that “what it is, is going into the prisons and giving job training, vocational training, mentorship…mental health treatment, drug addiction treatment to people who are coming out, who are nonviolent offenders and figuring out how when they leave prison they have a better chance of getting a job and re-entering society in a productive manner than going back to a life of crime.”

Kushner said the bill “ranks all the different inmates” in the federal prison system under their “likelihood of committing a crime in the future” and allows the government to “put the focus on the nonviolent people are have a low risk.”

Fox News' Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Brooke Singman is a Politics Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter at @brookefoxnews.

Lindsey Graham: Trump should ‘dig in and not give in’ on border wall fight

South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham says he encouraged President Trump “to dig in” and not give up his fight to secure funding for a border wall as part of a deal to avert a government shutdown.

Graham, who said he spoke with Trump by phone Tuesday, told reporters, “If I were the president, I would dig in and not give in.”

Earlier Tuesday, the president clashed with Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi with the cameras rolling in the Oval Office and insisted he's willing to let the government shut down if Congress doesn't approve funding for his U.S.-Mexico border wall.

"If we don't have border security, we'll shut down the government," Trump said.

TRUMP CLASHES WITH PELOSI, SCHUMER ON BORDER SECURITY IN EXPLOSIVE OVAL OFFICE MEETING

Asked about the notion of Republicans being blamed for the shutdown after Trump’s comments, Graham said: “I’m fine with being the party that we’re going to secure our border now. We’re not going to wait any longer. We’re not going to keep kicking the can down the road.”

Graham said it’s a “reasonable request to get more money to build walls where it makes sense.”

Congress last week temporarily averted a partial shutdown amid the funeral services for the late President George H.W. Bush, pushing the new deadline to Dec. 21. But border wall funding remains the sticking point as Trump and congressional leaders try to hammer out a government spending package. Trump wants $5 billion for the project, while Democrats are offering $1.3 billion for border security.

Pelosi said she and many other Democrats consider the wall "immoral, ineffective and expensive." Schumer has previously said Democrats want to work with Trump to avert a shutdown, but said money for border security should not include the concrete wall Trump has envisioned.

Trump, calling for the border wall funding, has referred  to illegal immigration as a "threat to the well-being of every American community."

Fox News’ Jason Donner and Judson Berger contributed to this report.

Alex Pappas is a politics reporter at FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AlexPappas.

What happens during a government shutdown? 7 things you should know

Concerns about the potential of another government shutdown are once again circulating after President Trump said he'd be willing to halt operations if Congress doesn't approve funding for his U.S.-Mexico border wall.

"If we don't have border security, we'll shut down the government," warned Trump during a meeting with Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer in the Oval Office Dec. 11. "If it's not good [on] border security, I won't take it."

Congress pushed the new deadline to agree on new spending budgets for some agencies to Dec. 21. But border wall funding remains the sticking point – as it has in the past. Trump wants $5 billion for the project, while Democrats are offering $1.3 billion for border security.

"We gave the president two options that would keep the government open," Pelosi and Schumer said after the meeting. "It's his choice to accept one of those options or shut the government down."

TRUMP CLASHES WITH PELOSI, SCHUMER ON BORDER SECURITY IN EXPLOSIVE OVAL OFFICE MEETING

Some Republicans, however, are hopeful members of Congress will reach a compromise.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said "magic" sometimes happens in Congress ahead of Christmas, when lawmakers are eager to leave Washington.

"I'd like to see a smooth ending here," McConnell added.

Fox News previously asked Marc Goldwein, senior policy director of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget – a bipartisan, nonprofit organization that educates the public on fiscal policy issues – to explain a government shutdown, and he answered seven basic questions about the process that Americans should know.

What causes a government shutdown?

A shutdown occurs when Congress and the president fail to sign into law 12 appropriations bills (which determine spending for specific government agencies) in order to continue providing funding for government operations.

How can you prevent a government shutdown?

To avoid a shutdown, members of Congress can give themselves an extension, known as a continuing resolution (CR). The temporary funding measure keeps the federal government open and allows lawmakers more time to negotiate the remaining appropriations bills.

“The bar for a CR is pretty low. You’re not agreeing to anything new politically; it’s a no-brainer,” Goldwein told Fox News.

How long does a government shutdown last?

As long as it takes. Congressional leaders from both parties have to reach an agreement to fund the government.

It usually takes a weekend for this to happen.

“We’re talking days or weeks – not months,” Goldwein said.

The federal government would be forced to shut down “non-essential services.” Who would be affected?

"Essential staff at top level agencies would continue working, but most federal employees whose jobs aren’t vital would likely be sent home," Goldwein said.

For example, those who work at national parks, monuments and museums would be told to go home.

"It doesn’t feel awesome to be told you’re not an essential employee. It's a little demoralizing to go home because you’re not important," Goldwein added.

In the 2013 shutdown, roughly 850,000 employees were furloughed per day, according to the Office of Management and Budget.

But not everyone is required to take unpaid leave.

The president, presidential appointees and members of Congress are exempt. The Postal Service, the TSA and Air Traffic Control will also continue business as usual.

Americans will still be able to get their Social Security and Medicare benefits and food stamps. However, people expecting VA benefits, unemployment benefits, farm subsidies and tax refunds may experience delays.

Do federal employees still get paid?

Most likely. The problem: They're not sure when they'll get their money.

"Everyone loses from the government shutdown. An employee loses their paycheck at the time he or she needs it," Goldwein said. "Ultimately, we’re going to fund it anyway. It’s kind of silly."

Federal employees typically receive back pay shortly upon their return, though, Goldwein says, nothing is certain. Every agency has their own contingency plan in the event of a shutdown.

How many times has the government shut down?

The government has shut down 20 times since 1976, the year Congress introduced the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget’s research. Half of the shutdowns occurred over a weekend.

“Before 1980, the government didn’t really shut down,” Goldwein explained. “A lot of others were over the course of weekends. I call them ‘fake shutdowns.’”

Goldwein says there have really only been three significant government shutdowns in the history of the U.S.

Two occurred during the Clinton administration in the winter of 1995 to 1996. Former President Bill Clinton and the Republican Congress were at odds and shut the government down for a total of 26 days, Goldwein said.

The third occurred during the Obama administration in 2013 when a stalemate between the House and Senate led to a 16-day hiatus.

How much money can the country lose during a shutdown?

The 16-day government shutdown in 2013 cost the country $24 billion of lost economic activity, according to an analysis from ratings agency Standard & Poor's.

"The payroll cost of furloughed employee salaries alone – that is, the lost productivity of furloughed workers – was $2.0 billion," the Office of Management and Budget reported in 2013.

Goldwein says shutdowns "waste money" more than they "cost money."

"We’re not going to spend more money. We’re just going to spend it on worse stuff," he explained. "Instead of paying employees to work, we’re paying them not to work."

Fox News’ Alex Pappas, Judson Berger and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Jennifer Earl is an SEO editor for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter @jenearlyspeakin.