Friday, April 08, 2011

Government shut down


Government Shutdown Looms as Congress Fails to Reach Budget Compromise
With the federal government on the verge of shutting down at midnight on Friday, budget negotiations intensified between President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) in the hopes of reaching an agreement on a substantial reduction in spending for the remainder of the 2011 fiscal year. The three leaders have held a series of meetings this week in the Oval Office with increasing urgency as the deadline draws ever nearer.
House Republicans, lead by their tea party contingent, seek $61 billion in cuts to the FY11 budget, a figure that is substantial in its own right but whose impact would be significantly magnified because the 2011 fiscal year is half over (effectively doubling the impact). The White House and Senate Democrats have reportedly countered with an offer of $33 billion in cuts. Already, Congress and the White House have cut $10 billion in FY11 as part of the series of temporary funding extensions known as continuing resolutions (CR) that kept the government operating while work continued on a final budget plan. Among those earlier reductions that have gone into effect are $891 million in cuts to education programs that completely eliminated funding for Striving Readers ($250 million), Even Start ($66 million), and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards ($10 million) among other programs.
Indeed, House Republicans passed another one-week CR late this week in the event negotiations fail. But the price for the one-week extension is $12 billion in additional cuts to federal spending, including $391 million from education programs such as Education Technology State Grants ($100 million) and Teaching American History ($119 million). Such a CR has little chance of being approved by the Senate or president.
Complicating a final deal is the insistence of House Republicans that several policy changes be included in any funding compromise, notably eliminating funding for Planned Parenthood and language prohibiting the EPA from enforcing certain Clean Air and Clean Water Act rules.

Federal agencies and Washington, D.C., began bracing for the possibility of a shutdown. Beginning Saturday, national parks, the Smithsonian museums, and National Zoo would close. Tax returns and refunds would slow to a halt. On the other hand, mail and social security checks would continue to be delivered. Essential personnel would remain on the job, such as those working in law enforcement, defense, air traffic control, and homeland security, but the vast majority of the 800,000 federal workers would be furloughed and prohibited from working—even on a voluntary basis—during the shutdown.
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