Congress faces battles over appropriations, the debt ceiling and round two of the sequester.
The threat of a government shutdown became a lot more real this week. The House Republican leadership was forced to delay a vote to fund federal agencies after fiscal 2013 ends on Sept. 30 because the party’s most conservative wing refused to support the temporary spending measure. Tea Party Republicans called a concurrent resolution defunding Obamacare and linked to the stopgap measure a gimmick because Senate Democrats could have easily defeated it and kept the government open by passing a clean continuing resolution.
GOP leaders hope to hold a vote on a stopgap spending measure next week, but a feasible plan hasn’t emerged yet. The House is scheduled for another recess the week of Sept. 23, which means lawmakers have five legislative days to pass something to keep the government open. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., has said the leadership might cancel the recess if lawmakers fail to accomplish anything next week.
The anxiety -- and déjà vu -- over a possible government shutdown marks the first major fiscal deadline Congress and the Obama administration face during the next few months. Here’s a timeline of upcoming important dates to watch as the latest budget drama unfolds.
- Sept. 30: The current continuing resolution keeping the government open expires.
- Oct. 1: Fiscal 2014 begins. If Congress doesn’t pass a measure to fund agencies by the end of Sept. 30, then the government shuts down Oct. 1. Non-essential federal employees immediately would go on furlough until the government reopens.
- Oct. 18: The date when many believe the government runs out of wiggle room under the debt ceiling and defaults on its debts. It’s possible the government could stave off this fiscal disaster until early November. If the government defaults, then the Treasury Department must decide who gets paid on time, and who doesn’t. This would be unprecedented and could affect military and civilian pay. Over the next month, Congress and the Obama administration will haggle over raising the debt ceiling, and Republicans are threatening to use an increase in the debt ceiling as a bargaining chip in their quest to delay implementation of the 2010 Affordable Care Act.
- Dec. 15: The House Appropriations Committee unveiled a CR on Tuesday that would fund the government from Oct. 1 through Dec. 15. The current measure would give agencies flexibility to avoid furloughs during that time frame. The likelihood of the CR passing is unclear.
- Dec. 16: Congress begins its holiday recess through the end of the year. During the past few years, both chambers have worked up to the end of December to debate and vote on important budget legislation. So far, history is on track to repeat itself.
- Dec. 31: Look for news regarding a possible civilian pay increase around this time, or an extension of the pay freeze, now in its third year. President Obama wants to give civilian employees (as well as military personnel) a 1 percent, across-the-board pay boost in 2014. So far, Congress has remained silent on a civilian pay increase. If lawmakers do not pass a measure prohibiting a raise or extending the pay freeze, then the president’s recommendation takes effect. It’s hard to imagine lawmakers in this environment allowing that to happen.
- Jan. 15: The automatic cuts under sequestration take effect for fiscal 2014 on this date, unless Congress changes the law before then. Agencies likely will start announcing furlough plans soon after, if the sequester remains in place. The FBI has already said it will furlough employees for 10 days if the sequester remains in place.
- Feb. 3: President Obama must submit his fiscal 2015 budget proposal to Congress by the first Monday in February. But Obama typically has been late delivering his blueprint, blaming sequestration last year. Congress didn’t receive his fiscal 2014 proposal until April 2013.