Federal update: Will government shut down?

Lori Clark

Lori Clark

The current Continuing Resolution (CR) that has been keeping the federal government running is set to expire Friday, April 8.

President Obama announced this week that he will not sign another stopgap bill without first reaching an agreement with Congress over the 2011 budget, even if it means a government shutdown when the current CR expires.

Congressional leaders had been negotiating to arrive at a compromise on the level of spending cuts for the current year, and it initially looked as though an additional $33 billion in spending cuts was the target.

However, late in the game, House Speaker John Boehner upped the ante with his call for $40 billion in cuts. This was the first time that the speaker has put his name publicly to a number other than the $61.3 billion in spending cuts that the House passed in February.

According to Politico, “Boehner’s proposed cuts translate into a $1.048 trillion top line for 2011 nonemergency appropriations, $40 billion less than the rate of spending when he took command of the House in January and $80 billion below Obama’s initial request for this fiscal year.”

The problem seems to be that Speaker Boehner is being pressured by a group of hard-line Republicans, not all of whom are freshmen, to push for more spending cuts or face the possibility of being replaced as speaker. These hard-liners are insisting on the $61 billion in cuts already passed by the House.

The threat of a government shutdown has reached the point where congressional leaders in the House have issued directives to their members telling them the difference between “essential” and “non-essential” employees and which House support offices could be closed. In addition, the White House has informed federal agencies to begin making preparations for a shutdown.

With the campaign for the 2012 elections already under way, there is considerable discussion about who would be blamed in the event of a government shutdown. Recent polls indicate that the blame would be shared equally among the president and congressional Republicans. Speaker Boehner did warn his Republican colleagues that the Democrats would “win” in the event of a government shutdown and that the Republicans would suffer a “political catastrophe” if the federal government runs out of money Friday.

In addition to the FY2011 budget negotiations, the U.S. Treasury secretary has stated that the federal government will reach its current borrowing limit of $14.3 trillion no later than May 16, although he has various measures that could keep the United States from defaulting on its obligations through July 8. Congressional action is needed before the debt ceiling could be raised.

To further compound the budget tensions in Washington, the House budget chairman, Paul Ryan, this week issued a plan that calls for $6.2 trillion in federal spending cuts over the next decade — 100 times more than the $60 billion that the House Republicans have called for this year. His plan calls for $1.8 trillion in tax cuts along with the unprecedented spending cuts and the fundamental restructuring of the federal health entitlement for the elderly and the poor (Medicare and Medicaid).

At this point, because of the fluid nature of federal budget negotiations, we cannot analyze what impact this might have on NIU. However, we continue to monitor the situation closely and communicate our priorities to members of the Illinois congressional delegation.

The Voices section of NIU Today features opinions and perspectives from across campus. Lori Clark is director of federal relations for NIU.

Print Friendly