News Column

'Be Prepared' for Shutdown, White House Tells Agencies

September 18, 2013

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Marine One approaching the White House (file photo)

The White House has directed U.S. agencies to "be prepared for the possibility" of a shutdown if Congress can't agree on a bill to fund government operations.

White House Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Burwell notified federal departments and agencies in a memo Tuesday they may not be able to operate after Oct. 1 because current funding will expire after Sept. 30.

Burwell said the administration "does not want a lapse in appropriations to occur" and there is sufficient time for Congress to pass a spending resolution that will avert a shutdown.

"However, prudent management requires that agencies be prepared for the possibility of a lapse," she wrote. "To that end, this guidance reminds agencies of their responsibilities to plan for agency operations under such a contingency."

The Wall Street Journal said Wednesday the prospect of a partial government shutdown is growing.

Chris Krueger, an analyst at Guggenheim Securities -- a financial and investment consulting firm -- said there is a 40 percent chance of a shutdown, the Journal reported. Krueger said there is "little to no evidence to suggest that the House, Senate and White House can agree to a stopgap measure in time."

Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security benefits generally have not been disrupted in past shutdowns and other government services -- including border security, some food inspection and the postal service -- would likely be maintained in the event of a shutdown, the newspaper said.

However, hundreds of thousands of federal employees would be furloughed without pay, national parks would be closed and even military personnel would go without paychecks if a shutdown lasted more than a week or so, the journal said.

President Barack Obama, speaking Wednesday at the Business Roundtable in Washington, said the threat of a shutdown is the result of an "ideological fight that's been mounted in the House of Representatives that says, we're not going to pass a budget and we will threaten a government shutdown unless we repeal the Affordable Care Act."

"We have not seen this in the past, that a budget is contingent on us eliminating a program that was voted on, passed by both chambers of Congress, ruled constitutional by the Supreme Court, is two weeks from being fully implemented, and that helps 30 million people finally get health care coverage," he said.

"What's worse, that same faction has said, if we can't succeed in shutting the government down and leveraging that to eliminate the Affordable Care Act, we may be prepared to let the government default on our debt."

Obama said House Republicans' threat on not raising the debt limit amounts to extortion and said he would not allow the full faith and credit of the United States to be "a bargaining chip to set policy."

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White House directs U.S. agencies to 'be prepared' for shutdown

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