Shutdown: Not Again!

Worried about a repeat of last year’s government shutdown? Are you afraid of another October surprise when you learn which of you your agency considers essential vs. those it can do without?

Don’t let fears of a shutdown ruin, or keep you from taking a vacation this year. Things are not as bad as they seem. One reason …

Though most members of the media would deny it, the simple truth is that for a lot of us, bad news is good news. Local bad news is even better than national bad news, which is better than international bad news.

It isn’t “news,” for example, that every month, month-after-month, year-after-year 50 million people get their Social Security checks on time. The “news” is when a poor little old lady in a Baltimore flat full of cats doesn’t get her check. Or a pensioner in San Francisco goes hungry because his deposit was two days late. That’s news!


Given the option of talking about a string of nice summer days coming up, or a hurricane lurking a mere 7,000 miles away, you know what your local TV weather folks are going to focus on.

So it is with heavy heart that many of us in the federal news biz must report that the chances of another government shutdown — due to lack of funds or for any other reason — are slim and none. If you are looking for an October surprise, tell your significant other to make other plans. This is 2014, not 2013.

A number of readers — especially it seems at the IRS — say there are indicators that an October shutdown is going to happen. But the signs just aren’t there. Especially after the 2-year budget deal that was approved to avoid a pre-election shutdown that could hurt both parties. Especially incumbents.

The November elections are coming up, a lot of people are running scared, including some very comfortable senators and representatives for whom elections, at least in the past, have been mere formalities. Just say the magic words: ERIC CANTOR. He’s the former Majority Leader of the House who was so confident of reelection, he didn’t go to his Richmond district (95 miles from Washington) to vote in the primary.

Both Democrats and Republicans seem to have learned (again last year) the lesson that extended shutdowns don’t pay. Nor do they save much money.

As in the 1995-96 shutdown, Republicans seemed to take most of the political heat when national parks and federal museums and services closed.

The 2013 shutdown was accompanied by a new twist: Sequestration. Although both political parties — and the White House and Congress — said it was stupid and unthinkable, they let it happen. The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward (of Watergate fame) reported that Sequestration, to which the administration said it was opposed, came straight from the White House.

Sequestration is the political equivalent of something you step in, then can’t get rid of. Woodward said it the ultimate stupid political gift that keeps on taking. He referred to is as “$85 billion in ugly and largely irrational federal spending cuts set by law.”

While sequestration is still with us, insiders say there is little chance of another shutdown. Congress is here the rest of the week where the House will take up such key legislation as honorary better-late-than-ever U.S. citizenship for someone who has been dead for 200 years (H.J. Res. 106), and H.R. 4250, the Sunscreen Innovation Act.

By Thursday, Friday at the latest, Congress will take a 5-week break. It will return after Labor Day. At that point, it is likely the House and Senate will approve a continuing resolution (CR) to keep government running even though appropriations for many departments, agencies and functions haven’t been approved.

The bottom line is you aren’t likely to face a shutdown this year.

By Michael O’Connell

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