Republicans have been saying they get three bites at the apple in their attempt to cut spending, said Russell Berman, congressional reporter for The Hill newspaper.
The first is the current fiscal year 2011 budget. The second is the 2012 budget, starting Oct. 1. And the third is the federal debt ceiling.
“There’s going to be several more opportunities for confrontation,” Berman said. “Whether it leads to a shutdown or equally dramatic consequences, that’s sort of where we’re headed.”
The most imminent threat of a government shutdown could be in the next few days as Congress faces a Friday deadline to pass a budget. A meeting with President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Tuesday afternoon failed to produce a breakthrough compromise. However, the meeting was described as a “productive discussion,” Berman said.
The House has a three-day rule to review a bill. Lawmakers could waive that rule in order to avoid a shutdown, but Republican leaders in the House have “poo-pooed the idea,” Berman said.
If lawmakers reach a deal in the next day or two and just need a couple of days to complete the paperwork, Congress might pass a short-term funding extension of two to three days “so government does not shut down while they dot the i’s and cross the t’s on a longer-term deal,” Berman said.
But the battle over the fiscal year 2012 budget will dwarf what lawmakers are debating now.
On Tuesday, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) released a 2012 budget proposal that would cut $6 trillion over the next decade. The plan proposed freezing federal pay for five years and cutting the federal workforce by 10 percent over the next three years through attrition.
“It makes people realize, Do we really want to shut the government down over a few billion dollars when we know the problem is few trillion dollars?” Berman said.
Tom Temin is the host of The Federal Drive, which airs from 6-9 a.m. on 1500 AM in the Washington, DC region and online everywhere. Tom has 30 years experience in journalism, mostly in technology markets. Before coming to Federal News Radio, he was a long-serving editor-in-chief of Government Computer News and Washington Technology magazines.