Is a government shutdown on the agenda?

Spending fight could lead to impasse, experts say; SSA making contingency plans

A Capitol Hill battle over spending cuts could result in a shutdown of the government, according to experts, and at least one agency is getting ready in case it happens.

The House is currently debating a continuing resolution introduced by House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) to fund the government for the remainder of this fiscal year. But, Democrats and the Obama administration have expressed strong opposition to the measure because of its deep cuts to a number of government programs. If funding for this fiscal year runs out in March and no continuing resolution is in place to take over, a shutdown is seen as likely, according to media reports.

And House Speaker John Boehner said Feb. 17 that he would not support a stopgap measure to continue funding the government at current levels. “When we say we’re going to cut spending, read my lips: We’re going to cut spending,” Boehner told reporters in the Capitol, according to Politico.

Boehner’s remarks upset Democratic lawmakers, and prompted a high-ranking aide to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to tell Democratic chiefs of staff in a private meeting that a government shutdown is “more likely than not,” Politico reported Feb. 18.

Still, Senate Republicans insist that a shutdown isn’t going to happen.

“Nobody is talking about shutting the government down,” Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), the second-ranking Senate Republican said Feb.15, according to the Washington Post. The Post noted that budget disagreements between former President Bill Clinton and GOP members in 1995 and 1996 resulted in federal agencies halting operations and stopping federal pay.

The heated debate about funding for this fiscal year has led the Social Security Administration to start considering how it would enact a furlough in case of a shutdown, Federal Times reported Feb.17.

SSA told the American Federation of Government Employees that it wanted to start bargaining over a potential furlough.

SSA Chief Human Capital Officer Reginald Wells said the agency has “largely planned who would make up a ‘skeleton crew’ that would have to keep working during a shutdown,” according to Federal Times. “Most of these employees would have to maintain computer systems, facilities, and other elements of SSA’s infrastructure, or provide security at buildings.”

Wells added that regular discussions are taking place at the agency about how to implement a possible shutdown. Federal Times reports that SSA said furlough negotiations with the union must begin by March 22.

About the Author

Alyah Khan is a staff writer covering IT policy.

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Reader Comments

Wed, Feb 23, 2011 stonemason89

I agree, Congress should cut their own salaries first, before talking about shutting down the rest of the gov't.

Wed, Feb 23, 2011

If, congress is so ready to cut Government employees, they should as leader of the free world be leading by example and start by cutting their own salaries. Additionally, they should be held to serve but two terms, or they as well as others in positions of power become entitled. I have yet to see our so called elected officials to act as the responsible party we elected to serve our people! They are more for themselves than for the very people they represent.

Wed, Feb 23, 2011

Lets face it - you cannot spend more than you make. And taking more from those that earn to pay for those that don't in large portions is only a recipie for disaster. I am glad that we're waking up and cutting programs that are just wasting everyones money.

Tue, Feb 22, 2011

I think all the members of the House and Senate should agree to work for NO salary or stipend for about 6 months. That should put them back down with the majority of the population. I also think taxes should be flat, across the board with NO deductions. Anyone earning anything will pay a particular percent whether they make $20,000 or $20,000,000 per year. That would certainly make it easier to file and bring in more funds for the country.

Tue, Feb 22, 2011

If Federal spending is not cut until it's in the black, the interest rate on the $14 trillion debt is going to start going up from the 1.5% it's at now. If it went up to where my mortgage is at 6.5%, that means another $700,000,000,000 coming off the top to service the debt, and nothing says it has to stop there. The President's budget has another $1.3 trillion in additional debt (projected). If that stays, what do you think is going to happen to our credit rating? If we don't cut spending now, the credit market will do it for us.

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