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Congress is responsible for passing annual appropriations to fund government agencies. If Congress neglects to pass funding bills, government agencies are forced to shut down. Follow all of Federal News Radio's government shutdown coverage from the past several years.
Analysis: Budget stalemate is centered on 'tiddlywinks' amount
Monday - 9/26/2011, 6:31pm EDT
Federal News Radio
The Senate failed to pass a continuing resolution Friday over an issue that amounts to "tiddlywinks," said Steven Dennis, Senate reporter for CQ Roll Call, in an interview with In Depth with Francis Rose.
Disaster relief funding for FEMA is the major issue of contention. FEMA said it expects to run out money in this fund by the end of this week.
The Senate had voted on a House-passed short-term funding bill that included $3.7 billion for the disaster fund. The previous week, the Senate provided $6.9 billion in disaster aid and no cuts to help pay for it as part of an appropriations bill passed last week.
In the grand scheme of the budget debate, the disaster funding is a relatively small number compared with the $14.3 trillion in deficits.
"It just shows you how far apart the two parties are when they can't agree on these relatively small fights," Dennis said.
The possibility of a shutdown is "very unlikely" but not out of the question, he said.
"It would almost defy any kind of sense, political or otherwise, to actually shut down the government over this," Dennis said.
He added, "On the other hand, we've seen some things in the last few years that sometimes have defied common sense and haven't been the smartest thing to do. You never know."