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The Looming Government Shutdown

February 22, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Congress may not be in session this week, but the negotiations on how to fund the government are continuing. At this point, however, we’re still looking at two sides that disagree and are unwilling to budge — a Democratic Senate that wants to pass a clean short-term continuing resolution to forestall a government shutdown until the year-long budget can be worked out, and a Republican House that will go along with a short-term solution, but only if it includes cuts. The most likely scenario still seems to be a government shutdown.

Some quick background: the current continuing resolution funding the government expires on March 4, just five days after Congress is scheduled to reconvene. The House has passed a new year-long CR last week, including at least $61 billion in cuts from the 2010 budget. But the Senate has been held up for weeks by an open amendment process on a non-controversial FAA bill and hasn’t even started debating their continuing resolution, let alone conference committee negotiations between the two chambers.

Everyone involved agrees that the best course of action right now is a two-week or month-long CR to keep government services alive and government employees employed while a longer compromise is being worked out. As Dave Dayen notes, the House Republicans and Senate Democrats are probably about $4 billon apart on the level of spending authority they want in a short-term CR. That’s about 0.1% of the total annual budget, but the politics involved mean that it’s enough to threaten a government shutdown.

Furthermore, if the government does shut down, it will ultimately cost the government money, not save money. As ABC reported yesterday, the last government shutdown, which was for 5 days in 1995, ended up costing $750 million.

So, what’s going to happen? Some anonymous aides are suggesting that a deal will be struck and a shutdown will be avoided. Others are saying that that’s not true. Ridiculous as it may seem, it’s hard to see Congress resolving this by the March 4th deadline. The White House seems to think so too — they’re drawing up plans to minimize the impact on government services should the shutdown occur.

Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan [R, WI-1] is pictured above.

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  • Abaratarrr 02/22/2011 9:07am

    wasn’t this years budget suppose to be completed by the last years congress? Didn’t last years congress have from march to December to pass what this years congress is starting over on? If that is the case why didn’t they work on the budget in the 9 months that they were suppose to spend working on it last year?

    Some clarification on this would be great.

  • Comm_reply
    donnyshaw 02/22/2011 9:26am

    That’s true. That’s why we’re on a continuing resolution now.

  • Comm_reply
    Kentuckian 02/22/2011 10:59am

    Not to mention last year’s Democratic Congress had a majority in both the House and Senate…

  • Comm_reply
    LucasFoxx 02/22/2011 5:57pm

    They couldn’t get the votes. And the Republicans fought hard to push it into this Congress. The Budget for FY2011 was for October 2010–September 2011. Getting into the final stretch of that bitter election, they punted and voted on a CR to get them through to December. In December, they cut a deal to get them home before Santa, and were able to bring a number of things to the floor for a vote in return for this lump of coal.

  • fakk2 02/22/2011 10:18am

    If the President is saying he doesn’t want a government shutdown, and doesn’t anticipate one, then why has he stated he would not budge on vetoing the spending bill if it includes such drastic cuts?

    Hopefully, yes, a temporary compromise would be considered and used if needed. But the House has already said, by 54%, they approve the cuts, which took only a week.

    S.223, as originally written, was calculated by the CBO to reduce deficits in the short term by $426 million, but increase deficits in the long term by $459 million.

    So, it took a week for $60 billion in cuts from the House, but a month for cuts from the Senate. Yeah, I think a month long CR is going to be necessary, because it most likely will go to the Senate, be amended, go back to the House, be amended, and go back to the Senate. There’s no way they’re going to a compromise in less than a month with their current progress. That’s IF the President doesn’t veto it anyways.

  • Yeniftyueror 02/22/2011 6:40pm

    They will do what they always do, about the only thing they do well, and in fact have already begun doing : They will lie . President Obama almost immediately threatened that Social Security checks would stop coming.


  • mw1787 04/08/2011 6:20pm

    There’s an innovative perspective to the government shutdown at
    Some fundamental causes of stalemates like these are incentive issues, which are endemic across the public sector. There are many lessons to be learned (in this instance budgetary and investment decision-making) from the private sector. The six major challenges inhibiting the federal government from operating like a Fortune 500 company are: define scope, raise revenue, minimize costs, assign single-point responsibility, solve new challenges with existing organizations, and exceed customer expectations. Our looming shutdown is clearly a “define scope” issue. Our divisive Parties can’t agree on the role of government because they don’t have an OBJECTIVE method for making appropriation (investment) decisions.

    -MW, Author of “Uncle Sam Inc: Serving the American Consumer”

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