D.C. avoids government shutdown

The federal government escaped a seemingly imminent shutdown last week with the passage of a 2-week budget measure that enables the government to keep operating through March 18.

The Republican-led House passed a 2-week extension of the resolution with $4 billion in cuts to the budget Feb. 28. The Senate adopted the measure March 2, and President Barack Obama signed the bill into law that day. The federal shutdown would have shuttered D.C.’s government as well.

Since no formal budget was ever signed for the current fiscal year ending Sept. 30, Congress had adopted a resolution to extend previous spending levels until March 4.

There’s still a chance for a shutdown despite the stop-gap. Congress has until March 18 to resolve the issues, and if both parties don’t come to an agreement, a shutdown is imminent.

The effects of a shutdown – not felt since 1995 – might be felt in D.C. through closed Smithsonian Institution museums and furloughed workers.

“A lot of D.C. residents work for the government in some capacity, and if the government shut down, they would be out of work for that time,” said Stuart Kasdin, an assistant professor in the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration.

“D.C. gets fiscal transfers from the federal government, and the city wouldn’t get them if the government shut down,” he said.

D.C.’s delegate in Congress, Eleanor Holmes Norton, said in a statement to the House Committee on Rules Feb. 28 that though the District raises and manages its own $8 billion budget, Congress appropriates the local funds to D.C.

“Under both the current short-term continuing resolution and this joint resolution, the District’s authority to spend its local funds expires when these resolutions do,” she said.

Norton initially proposed an amendment to the resolution Feb. 28 to allow D.C. to spend its local funds for the remainder of the fiscal year in the event of a shutdown.

That amendment was voted out, leaving the door open to the possibility of a District government shutdown if Congress fails to pass an appropriations bill by March 18.

“The Congress may want to play chicken with the federal budget, but the city cannot afford this game,” Norton said Tuesday in a news release. Norton’s office declined to comment further.

The Senate approved another measure Tuesday that would prevent members of Congress and the president from receiving salaries in the event of a federal government shutdown.

The last time there was a federal government shutdown was during the Clinton administration when the houses of Congress were divided by party lines as well.

“There were actually two that year [1995]. The first one lasted 5 days and the second one went up to 21 days,” Kasdin said.

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