OMB Braces For Shutdown
OMB Braces For Shutdown
Republican appropriators hope to file the FY97 omnibus spending measure in the House today, but a key Democrat late Wednesday warned that GOP leaders still are far from reaching a spending deal with the Clinton administration. Furthermore, Office of Management and Budget officials were preparing to direct federal department heads to prepare for a possible government shutdown next week, even though Republicans have said they have no intention of allowing that to happen.
In a memo to be sent to federal department heads today and obtained by CongressDaily Wednesday night, OMB Director Raines says the administration expects the remaining FY97 appropriations bills will be signed by Monday. "If, however, neither the individual bills nor an omnibus measure is enacted by Oct. 1, departments and agencies not covered by enacted appropriations bills will experience a lapse in legal authority to enter into obligations and will be forced to implement their shutdown plans," the memo states.
The Raines memo states says all employees should report for work next Tuesday, and that the OMB will advise agencies heads "whether to implement your shutdown plan."
With FY97 starting next Tuesday, House Appropriations Chairman Robert Livingston, R-La., Wednesday said he planned to file the wrapup omnibus appropriations package in the House today. "If I file it, it will be the bill we expect to be signed," Livingston said. However, House Appropriations ranking member David Obey, D-Wis., contended, "I have absolutely no idea what he would be in a position to file ... unless they plan to file the latest version of the Republican platform."
Just four of the 13 appropriations bills so far have been signed by President Clinton: Military Construction, Legislative Branch, Agriculture and District of Columbia. Three other measures have been sent to the White House: Energy and Water, Transportation and VA-HUD. Expected to be included in the omnibus package are these six bills: Commerce-Justice-State, Interior, Labor-HHS, Treasury-Postal, Defense and Foreign Operations.
A White House official in an interview Wednesday night said the administration is working to avoid a shutdown, but "we have to be ready" in case all of the FY97 appropriations bills are not completed.
The White House official acknowledged comments by GOP leaders that they want to avoid a shutdown, while adding, "We would be irresponsible not to plan for a disruption that, under the worst scenario, could be a few days away." Meawhile, Livingston and Obey Wednesday painted very different pictures of the negotiations over the omnibus spending bill.
Livingston said appropriators are "constantly communicating with the White House" and have sent the omnibus spending proposal to administration officials piece by piece.
Early Wednesday afternoon, he told reporters, "We're 95 percent done with the whole package." He said Appropriations Committee staff planned to spend most, if not all, of Wednesday night reading the bill. "Everybody is working together to see that it gets done, and that it gets done soon," Livingston said. He said he hopes the House and Senate quickly approve the bill once it is unveiled, noting, "We're working on simultaneous acceptance of the bill." However, Obey suggested that acceptance could be days away.
He said the Appropriations Committee must first develop a comprehensive spending proposal to send to the White House, where it must be reviewed. That review must be followed by staff discussions, and then discussions among key appropriators and high-ranking administration officials. "That is going to go on for a matter of days," Obey predicted. "It is an enormous job that the staff has to do."
Obey said Livingston is under intense pressure from his leadership to quickly finish the bill. He said Republicans have used an "elitist" process for trying to put together the measure, adding that only chairmen and their ranking Democratic members have been involved. "The leadership doesn't understand because they've never had to carry a bill," Obey said. Obey noted the large number of issues that still remain to be resolved in the omnibus bill.
Referring to the Commerce-Justice-State section, Obey said, "It looks like that was prepared as a negotiating document, rather than a compromise."
A key source familiar with the spending talks said House Commerce-Justice-State Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., was not willing to go along with much of the administration's spending request. "He stiffed them as hard as he could," the source said. Rogers denied that assertion, saying, "We've gone up to their level on some things."
In addition, Obey said some 40 items remain unresolved in the Labor-HHS section of the bill. One source said at least $100 million still separates the Republicans and the administration in that section.
House Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Porter, R-Ill., predicted his section of the bill will come close to providing the $3.2 billion in education and job training funds requested by the administration.
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