Post-shutdown threat, will Congress take up 'sacred cows'?

Wednesday - 9/28/2011, 7:41am EDT

Erik Wasson, staff writer, The Hill

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By Jack Moore
Federal News Radio

While the good news is it looks like Congress has averted a damaging government shutdown, the fight over federal agency budgets isn't over yet.

The Senate passed a six-week continuing resolution Monday and the House plans to vote Monday. But that CR would only get the government through Nov. 18th, just before the so-called supercommittee needs to submit recommendations for further big spending cuts.

A twist of fate? Poor Congressional planning? One analyst told Federal News Radio the confluence of the two events likely spells another budget battle brewing in the Congress.

Erik Wasson, a staff writer with The Hill newspaper, joined the Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Amy Morris to discuss the important details that could affect your agency's future.

As for the upcoming Congressional calendar, the House will likely meet in a pro forma session to approve the first and shortest of the short-term spending bills the Senate approved Monday.

The full House will meet next week to approve the longer, six-week measure and given Democratic support for the bill, Wasson said it's "pretty much a shoo-in that it will pass."

In the meantime, Congress could actually pass some agency budget appropriations. For example, the appropriations for the military and Veterans Affairs has already been passed by both chambers and could easily pass through a conference committee, Wasson said.

There is less of a chance that Congress will cut agency nondiscretionary spending, he added, because the House and the Senate agreed on fiscal-year 2012 top-line spending numbers in the August debt-ceiling deal.

But Congress' packed schedule won't stop there.

Even though the supercommittee's deadline isn't until the latter part of November, Wasson said the panel would likely have to release the recommendations earlier than that to be officialy scored by the CBO and have enough time to make it through all of Congress' hoops.

And Wasson said "there are some things that have been sacred cows for many years" — such as entitlements — "that are on the table."