Continuing resolutions could be on the horizon for agencies

Federal program managers hoping for greater budget stability with Democrats controlling both the White House and Congress, consider yourselves forewarned: Expect to enter the next fiscal year without a budget.

That's the prediction of Stanley Collender, a partner at Qorvis Communications and a leading expert on the federal budget.

Although the 2011 fiscal year won't begin until Oct. 1, and Congress theoretically will have nine months to act on the budget request President Obama will submit on Monday, "I think it's fairly safe to say the prospects for individual appropriations at this point [are] relatively small," Collender said in a conference call with reporters on Thursday.

"We're either looking at an omnibus bill, or one or more continuing resolutions, or both," he said.

"For anyone that does business with the government that means that they may not be able to start doing that business maybe until after the first of the year when a new Congress comes in and a final omnibus or individual appropriations for 2011 are done," Collender said.

Collender's prediction stems from the fact that many moderate Democrats are facing tough elections in the fall and the White House budget, despite including a freeze on nonsecurity-related discretionary spending, essentially asks them to endorse a federal deficit of more than $1 trillion.

Appropriations bills are "squarely in the cross hairs," Collender said.

Even funding for the Defense Department could be at risk. Earlier this week House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the Defense budget should not be excluded from any federal freeze, signaling a potential battle with the Pentagon over defense spending.

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