(WASHINGTON) — As unbelievable as it might seem, yet another fiscal deadline hangs over Washington. Unless Congress agrees to extend funding by March 27, the federal government will shut down, but this latest deadline may actually end up being helpful.
It could provide a convenient opportunity for President Obama and his Republican counterparts to reach an agreement that would prevent the worst effects of budget sequestration, the automatic spending cuts set to take effect Friday.
Since October 2010, the federal government has been funded by a series of “continuing resolutions,” temporary extensions of current discretionary spending on programs, other than mandatory entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare and some defense spending.
The government-shutdown deadline on March 27 falls neatly within the timeline of sequestration cuts.
Many of the worst effects of the sequester have to do with furloughs at the Transportation Security Administration, Bureau of Prisons, FBI and Customs and Border Patrol. Such furloughs won’t happen until early April because most agencies must give workers at least 30 days’ notice before sending them home.
With furloughs looming eight days later, it seems March 27 would be a good time for Obama and Congress to agree on a deal to avoid the sequester.
Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski has said she wants to use the March 27 deadline as an opportunity to deal with sequestration. “[Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid knows that a straight CR [continuing resolution] just won’t do it. It’s just a change of date,” Mikulski told Politico.
House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers doesn’t want the debate on sequestration and deficit reduction to interfere with continued government funding. He is simply pushing to extend current levels while drafting new appropriations bills for the Department of Defense, military construction and the Department of Veterans Affairs that would free those areas of spending from across-the-board cuts by allowing appropriators to reallocate money.
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