Emergency Bill Prevented Government Shutdown

posted by Nima

October 5, 2009 · Posted in Government 

This happened Wednesday last week, from Nasdaq.com:

Facing a midnight deadline, the U.S. Senate Wednesday approved an emergency one-month extension of current funding levels for the federal government.

The extension is necessary because lawmakers have been unable to complete work on the 12-must pass spending bills required to keep the various arms of the federal government running each year.

With the federal government’s fiscal year in its waning hours, all non- essential parts of the government would have been required to shut down at midnight had the extension not been agreed to.

The Senate voted 62-38 to agree to the extension.

House lawmakers voted strongly in favor of the measure last week.

President Barack Obama must sign it into law by midnight to avert the shutdown.

The extension was attached to one of the spending bills – legislation to fund Congress and its related agencies. It is the first of the dozen bills that lawmakers have finished.

As such, Democrats were accused by their Republican counterparts of putting Congress’ interests before the rest of the country’s. This bill was most likely completed first as it is the least controversial of the 12 pieces of legislation.

The minority party was also critical of the package because it includes language allowing the U.S. Postal Service to defer a $4 billion payment to its employees’ pension fund.

The taxpayer will make the payment on behalf of the postal service, which would make up the shortfall over the next several years.

The Democrats defeated an attempt by the Republicans to strip out the postal service language.

Even with the one-month extension, Congress still has considerable work to do to finish setting the funding levels of individual government departments.

The Senate still must agree to the majority of its versions of the spending bills, and then lawmakers from the House and Senate must agree to iron out any differences between their versions of the bills.

Certainly, one reason for the delay is the focus on a sweeping overhaul of health care. But many of the spending bills have been subject to Republican delaying tactics as they have hit the Senate floor.

Republicans have argued throughout the year that in the face of burgeoning federal budget deficits, the federal budget should be frozen rather than increased.

In addition to trying to impose spending caps, Republicans have repeatedly attempted to attach stricter controls to the various federal government market intervention programs, and the economic stimulus plan.

The bill also includes a one-month extension of current funding levels for highway construction programs. Lawmakers had hoped to pass a three-month extension of the program, but that is getting bogged down over an $8.7 billion shortfall states face in transportation project funding that kicks in at midnight.

The Senate was trying to include a fix for the $8.7 billion shortfall, but is looking unable to receive Republican agreement to nod the fix through. Making matters more complicated, the House is insisting that any attempt to cover the shortfall is offset by a reduction in federal spending elsewhere.

… I wouldn’t mind seeing “all non-essential parts of the government” (which ones are actually essential??) shut down for a few weeks.

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