Here We Go Again.
News reports have been chattering about a possible
government shutdown since July. Both Democrats and Republicans have been posturing
and saber-rattling and making a lot of noise, but none of them bother to
explain what that means for the public.
First, some background. Each federal fiscal, or budget, year
begins on October 1 and ends on September 30. Fiscal year 2013 began on October
1, 2012 and ends on September 30, 2013. Fiscal year 2014 will begin on October
1, 2013. Federal law requires Congress and the president to agree on a final
budget before each fiscal year begins. They couldn't reach that agreement in
2012, so the United States government has been operating on a series of
continuing resolutions since October 1. That means that the government can keep
operating and paying its bills temporarily. When there is no funding, federal
law requires the government to cease all non-emergency activities. The current
resolution ends on Monday, September 30.
While it's possible to operate on continuing resolutions,
and without a real budget, indefinitely, it has been unlikely until now. The
politicians usually make noise until one side or the other blinks. It appears
that the Democrats have finally grown a spine and won’t give in this time. But I could be wrong. Contrary to what many
believe, the Constitution does not give all budgetary power to the House of
Representatives or require budget bills to begin in the House. It doesn’t even
require that Congress produce an annual budget. The Congressional Budget Act of
1974 does that, but not the Constitution.
Until we have a budget, the Republicans threaten to block
new continuing resolutions and shut down the federal government unless the
Democrats agree to eliminate all funding for the Affordable Care Act,
also called Obamacare. President Obama has said that he will veto any bill
which does that.
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