Carrie Dann writes:As the standoff in Congress continues over where and what to cut from federal spending for the rest of this fiscal year, the prospects for a government shutdown loom larger.
But the haggling over the budget could have a very expensive consequence: A shutdown costs the government money.
A lot of it.
The Office of Management and Budget estimated early in 1996 that the first of two government shutdowns – for six days in November 1995 – cost taxpayers an estimated $100 million per day. The final price tag for that closing and the record three-week shutdown later that year - including back pay to workers who did not go to work over that time: Over $1.25 billion.
Other shutdowns have been costly too. According to the Government Accountability Office, a funding gap of just three days in 1991 rang up a $607 million bill, including $363 million in lost revenue and fees.
If Congress fails to reach an agreement on a stopgap spending measure before the current funding law expires on March 4, the federal government could be headed for the 16th closure since Jimmy Carter’s presidency.
The costs of shutdown
The executive branch of the federal government currently employs just over two million civilians – about the same number as it did in the mid-1990s – and requires hundreds of millions of dollars per day to function.
But why does it cost so much to keep the lights off?
First of all, pay.
The Office of Management and Budget requires federal agencies to maintain a contingency plan in case of a “funding hiatus” – including information about how many employee are essential for “military, law enforcement, or direct provision of health care activities” or otherwise “to protect life and property.” That would include air traffic controllers, national security professionals, key medical workers, and law enforcers, among others. But, in the event of a shutdown, “non-essential” employees would be forced to stay home until the impasse gets resolved.
In the 1990s, the 800,000 employees who were furloughed in November and the 260,000 who sat idle in December received a total of about $1 billion in back pay even though they could not report to work, according to a report by the Office of Management and Budget. More
Contractors also suffered during the mid-1990s shutdowns. According to a survey conducted at the time by Signet Banking Corp., a third of federal contractors furloughed some of their own employees in January 1996. Many of those workers never received checks from their private-sector employers to make up for time lost.
They'll raise it. After much yelling and screaming, they'll raise it just like they always do.
It's a fiction anyway, a farce; there is no 'debt ceiling' for a sovereign nation.
Cycloptichorn wrote:It's a fiction anyway, a farce; there is no 'debt ceiling' for a sovereign nation.
Of course not - Zimbabwe (formerly known as Rhodesia) monetary policy proves it
GOP freshmen face big shutdown decision: fight or fall in line
(By Russell Berman, TheHill.com, April 4, 2011)
Each of the 87 House Republican freshmen faces the same choice heading into the climactic week of the 2011 budget battle — to fight or fall in line.
The freshman class, vaunted for its unprecedented size and its Tea-Party ties, has been caught between party leadership nudging it toward compromise on one end and anti-spending activists clamoring for a clash on the other.
In the coming days, fresh GOP faces will have to decide whether or not to support spending cuts likely to be a far cry from what they had demanded.
The freshmen began the spending skirmish as the instigators: their demand for deeper cuts sent Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and GOP leaders back to the drawing board, resulting in a House bill that would slash $61 billion from federal spending — nearly twice the amount leadership had initially proposed.
Six weeks later, the stalemate goes on, delivering a sobering reality check to the increasingly frustrated insurgents.
“I had hoped we would be finished with this debate by now,” Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.), one of two freshman representatives in the leadership, said in an interview.
“I didn’t come here to play patty-cake or to do business as usual in Washington,” added Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.).
“I have been very patient in learning the ropes,” he said. “And what I see is exactly what my constituents warned me about, and that is business as usual is counterproductive.”
Members such as Reps. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) and Allen West (R-Fla.) have vowed to oppose a final deal that does not defund Democratic priorities such as the healthcare law or Planned Parenthood.
Yet the past weeks have also exposed splinters in the freshman class, showing that the notion of a cohesive bloc is a myth. In many cases, the drive for deeper spending cuts has been led by veteran GOP conservatives such as Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio, Mike Pence of Indiana and Michele Bachmann of Minnesota.
While some freshman lawmakers have veered closer to the Tea Party, many others have fully embraced the leadership’s strategy and message. Boehner’s repeated reminders about the limits of Republican power, for example, have seeped into their own talking points.
“I know that Republicans only control one-half of one-third of government,” said Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), as he walked out of a freshman meeting with leadership, “so it’s very hard when we’re still in the minority in general to try to enact the cuts that the American people have sent us here to do.”
In the midst of the rally, however, many more freshmen staged a separate kind of protest: A group of 30 — a full third of the class — signed a letter denouncing the “failure” of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to pass a spending bill.
Though both sides insisted the protest was not coordinated by party leadership, the message behind it was a clear echo of Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.).
Boehner has used the freshman class to his advantage, encouraging attacks on Democrats and ensuring negotiations began on the GOP’s terms.
In a closed-door meeting Thursday, the Speaker urged freshmen to keep the pressure on Democrats, saying the heated rhetoric “has given me leverage” in the spending fight.
“We’ve got to keep the rhetoric and the heat on them,” Boehner said in remarks that could be heard outside the room.
The next day, the group of freshmen staged another protest event on the Senate steps.
While Boehner has winked at the tail-wagging-the-dog perception that exists about his relationship with the freshmen, he has emphasized his conservative bona fides in private meetings.
Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said Boehner often refers to reports asserting that the freshmen have forced his hand on spending. “He’s laughed and said, ‘I’m hearing out there in the reports that I’m being painted into a corner. I appreciate you guys painting me into a corner, because I was standing here anyway,’ ” Lankford said. “This is already where he wants to be.”
In other ways, however, GOP leaders have been preparing the rookies for eventual compromise. In last week’s meeting, they stressed the consequences of a government shutdown with an emphasis on how it would be considerably different than the interruptions of 1995-96, when Congress had already appropriated money for some federal agencies. No appropriations bills are in effect past April 8.
And from the beginning, Boehner and Cantor have talked about having “three bites at the apple” on spending cuts — the 2011 funding, the 2012 budget and the vote to raise the federal debt limit. The current debate centers on roughly $50 billion — a minuscule slice of the overall deficit, which tops $1 trillion.
“I’ve come to realize that the bigger fight is about the budget, about entitlements,” said Rep. Jeff Landry (R-La.), a freshman member of the Tea Party Caucus. The realization, he said, came a few weeks ago when Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) presented freshmen with a lecture on the budget.
“I can tell you it was an eye opener, learning the fiscal shape we are in,” Landry said.
With the fiscal 2012 budget looming, a debate has broken out between lawmakers like Pence who have urged the GOP to “pick a fight” on the 2011 funding, and others who argue the party needs to move on to next year’s budget, where the potential for much deeper cuts exists.
“I wouldn’t call it a divide,” said Rep. Austin Scott (R-Ga.), president of the freshman class. “What we want to see is continual progress, and certainly there are some who want more cuts [and] some who would stake a claim elsewhere.”
Tea Party pressure intensifies for congressmen
(By Lindsey Ward, WSLS-10.com, April 4, 2011)
Back in November, Republican Congressman Morgan Griffith celebrated a victory on election night local Tea Parties helped him achieve.
However, less than six months later the tide has turned.
As Friday’s government shutdown deadline looms over Washington, pressure from the Tea Party intensifies.
Party activists are unhappy with Griffith's previous compromise votes to keep the government running.
In fact, several Tea Party chapters protested at Griffith's congressional offices over the weekend.
Meanwhile, the Liberty Coalition scheduled a meeting with the congressman Saturday to discuss the need for more spending cuts.
We checked with Griffith and he says they met at his house.
“In the five weeks that we've dealt with the budget, we've cut $10 billion,” said Griffith.
We spoke to several local Tea Party members over the phone. They say, that money is just a drop in the bucket and Congress should be cutting hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars.
We took questions on this growing issue to WSLS Ten on Your Side Political Analyst, Dr. Bob Denton.
He says leaders like Griffith are being watched very closely.
“Those who are the activist Tea Party, they have a legislative agenda that's very much specific, and they expect in exchange for their past support to vote strictly according to their principals,” Dr. Denton said.
Griffith understands that, but says there are limits to how quickly they can fix the system.
“I don't think they are unreasonable in what they want to happen. They are somewhat unrealistic if they expect a new member of Congress to be able to change everything that's been going on in Washington for the last 50 or 60 years.
Griffith says they agree on most of the issues it's just a matter of timing.
Gov't Moves Closer to Shutdown After White House Rejects GOP Spending Bill, Sources Say
(FoxNews.com, April 5, 2011)
The federal government appeared to move one step closer to a shutdown after the White House indicated Tuesday that it won't accept a one-week spending bill designed by House Republicans to buy more time to find a permanent budget solution, sources told Fox News.
The White House called Speaker John Boehner to tell him no deal on a one-week continuing resolution that would exact stiff demands, a Democratic congressional aide told Fox News.
With that decision, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said, "The White House has increased the likelihood of a shutdown."
But Boehner's camp disputes that account, telling Fox News that the president only said he would not weigh in on the new resolution publicly.
The speaker told the president that House Republicans were rallying behind a third option because the House refused to be "put in a box and forced to choose between two options that are bad for the country (accepting a bad deal that fails to make real spending cuts, or accepting a government shutdown due to Senate inaction)," according to a readout from Boehner's camp.
The resolution was a backup that Boehner would only "break glass" on if he had to, and senior budget negotiators say they weren't sure it had the votes to pass even if it were accepted by Democrats.
Talks of a new resolution come as top-ranking lawmakers met at the White House Tuesday in what could be the last chance to reach a deal before the lights go out, which both the Obama administration and House Republicans are preparing for with notices to federal workers.
After the closed-door meeting of President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Boehner and their respective appropriations committee chairmen, Boehner said no budget agreement was reached. He added that Republicans are now rallying behind a seventh short-term resolution to keep government operating for one more week so Congress can get through the machinations needed to pass a compromise spending plan.
The meeting was a last-ditch effort to find a satisfactory number for operating the government for the remaining six months of the fiscal year. Republicans, fired up by the Senate's refusal to accept a $61 billion cut to current spending levels, said Democratic intransigence has led the nation to the brink.
Tea Party-backed freshmen lawmakers said they will support the new resolution, particularly since it is attached to a Defense spending bill.
But White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, who wouldn't comment on whether the White House had rejected the GOP bill, said it is premature to talk about any short-term solution.
"What we have said, it is not necessary and not acceptable to create toll booths to keep the government going," he said.
A spokesman for House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called the new resolution "irresponsible and unacceptable."
Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said he will oppose the one-week resolution and added that he hopes other Democrats will follow his lead. Hoyer, who has voted for previous temporary spending bills, said they are "ineffective, inefficient and costly."
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told a Senate legislative committee Tuesday that forcing the government to live week-by-week this far into the fiscal year risks undermining the economic recovery underway.
The last-ditch deal -- which had been drawn up because the House needs to allow a three-day buffer before considering a longer-term budget, pushing back a vote beyond Friday night's deadline for a shutdown -- includes $12 billion in cuts from an array of places and a funding plan to provide for the Pentagon through the end of the fiscal year ending Sept. 30.
Most every department of the government would face some kind of cut from prior spending levels, including military construction, high speed rail corridor funding, first responder grants, foreign assistance accounts and hospital readiness grants.
Other "riders" are not as high-profile as earlier proposals to cut government aid to Planned Parenthood or de-fund the health care overhaul, but would include a ban on federal and local money from paying for abortions in the District of Columbia, prohibition from transferring Guantanamo detainees to the United States and a requirement that the secretary of defense certify the transfer of a detainee to another country that would not put the U.S. at risk.
Stopgap measures, though, have become increasingly unpopular in Congress, particularly among House conservatives, and Republicans could have to look to moderate Blue Dog Democrats to help pick up votes. At the same time, congressional leaders were at the White House trying to work out a deal to fund the government for the rest of the year.
As the president meets with Boehner, Reid, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman, Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, over a number that could range from $33 billion to $61 billion in cuts -- or 2-4 percent of the total discretionary budget, the administration is preparing for a possible government shutdown.
A top official at the White House Office of Management and Budget has written a memo to agency heads directing them to review and share their contingency plans for a shutdown.
The Committee on House Administration also sent out a memo instructing employers in the House of Representatives to determine which "essential personnel" should keep working should funding lapse. The only House employees allowed to keep working would be those whose jobs are "directly related to constitutional responsibilities, related to the protection of human life, or related to the protection of property."
The prospect of a shutdown is looking more likely, doesn't it? I haven't seen details of what will be affected and when. I assume parks and museums will be the first to go.
It will be interesting to watch the polls to see how it impacts Dems and Repubs in Congress (which are already low) as well as Obama (who has at best a 50% approval rating).
The prospect of a shutdown is looking more likely, doesn't it