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Federal Government Prepares for a Shutdown

·2-min read

With lawmakers still wrangling over how to fund the government when the new fiscal year begins on October 1, the Biden administration instructed federal agencies on Thursday to begin preparing for a possible shutdown after September 30.

A spokesperson for the Office of Management and Budget said the move is being made as a precaution.

“We fully expect Congress to work in a bipartisan fashion to keep our government open,” OMB’s Abdullah Hasan said. “In the meantime, prudent management requires that the government plan for the possibility of a lapse in funding.”

Funding expected: Leaders from both parties have expressed confidence that a shutdown can be avoided, though they have been unable to agree on how to do so. Earlier this week Democrats in the House passed a continuing resolution, known as a CR, to fund the government at current levels through December 3, but Republicans in the Senate have vowed to kill the bill because it includes a measure to suspend the federal debt ceiling.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told reporters Thursday that as far as she is concerned, there will be no shutdown. “Whatever it is, we will have a CR that passes both houses by September 30,” she said at a press conference.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who has led the Republican opposition to the House bill, has indicated that he would support a continuing resolution to keep the government open as long as it does not include a provision addressing the debt ceiling, which he wants Democrats to deal with on their own, with no help from the GOP.

Lots of work to do: Although the path forward seems to be clear — Congress will likely vote on some kind of continuing resolution before the end of the fiscal year to keep the government open for a period of weeks or months – there is still a lot of work to and little time to do it, especially given the other pressing issues facing lawmakers.

While just about everyone in Washington expects to avoid a shutdown next week, the extremely tight timeframe, combined with the recent hostilities between party leaders over the debt ceiling, means that there is still a chance things could go awry. Shutting down the government is expensive and wasteful, and as the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Bill Hoagland told The Washington Post, it would be particularly problematic in the middle of a pandemic.

“This would be the first shutdown during a declaration of national emergency,” Hoagland said, noting that parts of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health would be closed in a shutdown. “In the midst of an ongoing pandemic and non-resolved issues related to the delta virus, to have a shutdown of some of the major federal agencies would add unbelievable complications to our ability to recover.”

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