Talk of shutdown heats up Hill

Friday - 2/18/2011, 3:01pm EST

By Jolie Lee
Federal News Radio

Comments from both parties point to the growing reality of a potential government shutdown.

A high-ranking aide to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told other top Democratic staffers that a shutdown is more likely than not.

Jerry Hartz, Pelosi's floor director, made his comments to a regular meeting of House Democrats aides, according to sources, Politico reports.

One chief of staff told Politico that the comments about a shutdown did not seem to be made for political purposes.

"It was genuine," the staffer told Politico.

The chances of a government shutdown were heightened Thursday after House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said he will not agree to a short-term government spending bill without budget cuts.

Early Saturday, the House passed a spending measure which would cut $61 billion from hundreds of federal programs. The bill would fund government for the remainder of the 2011 fiscal year. The bill now makes its way to the Senate, where it faces longer odds. President Barack Obama has already said he would veto the bill because it cuts "core government functions and investments" required for economic growth and job creation, according to an official statement.

The current continuing resolution funding government at 2010 levels expires on March 4.

As the deadline to reach compromise looms, bills in the House and Senate call for Congress and the President to stop being paid in the event of a government shutdown.

"If we're going to throw federal employees, including our staffs, out on the street, we should be right there with them," said Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), who introduced the Government Shutdown Fairness Act in the House, in a statement.

"In the event of a shutdown, members should be eating peanut butter and jelly like everyone else," Moran said.

The companion bill in the Senate is sponsored by Senators Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.).

"A government shutdown would be a disaster for our nation and for our economy," Boxer said in a statement.

"It is our job to work together for the good of the American people, and that's why I call on my Republican colleagues to take the government shutdown option off the table," Boxer said.

Budget analyst Jim Horney told Federal News Radio he worries about new members of Congress who don't have much experience with appropriations.

"It's awfully easy to say 'Oh let's just cut back on those expenses. Let's reduce this,' without having a sense of you can't do that very much without really harming the ability of the federal government to provide the services and benefits that people expect," Horney said.

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