White House has shutdown contingency plan

Tuesday - 2/22/2011, 4:24pm EST

By Jolie Lee
Federal News Radio

The White House press secretary said Tuesday the administration is confident that a shutdown can be avoided, but the government has a contingency plan if a shutdown does happen.

"I'd simply state that there have been contingency plans for government shutdowns since 1980, and those plans are obviously updated accordingly, but they've been around for a long time," said press secretary Jay Carney.

The Office of Management and Budget provides agencies with instructions every year of how to prepare and operate during a funding gap.

The guidance directs agency heads to development and maintain plans in case of a "funding hiatus" and to submit those plans to OMB. The plans must include:

  • An estimate of the time (to the nearest half-day) to complete the shutdown.
  • Number of employees expected to be on-board before implementation of the plan.
  • Total number of employees to be retained under the plan because they are engaged in military, law enforcement or direct provision of health care activities, or their compensation is financed by a resource other than annual appropriations.

Agency heads must also "decide what activities are essential to operate their agencies during an appropriations hiatus," according to the guidance.

A shutdown begins when OMB has identified that there is a funding hiatus and that all available funds have been exhausted.

"During an absence of appropriations, agency heads must limit obligations to those needed to maintain the minimum level of essential activities necessary to protect life and property," the guidance says.

March 4 is the deadline of the current continuing resolution that is funding government at 2010 spending levels. The House passed a budget measure that cuts $61 billion for the rest of the fiscal year, ending Sept. 30. President Obama has stated he will oppose any measure that cuts so deeply.

The likelihood of a shutdown was heightened after comments by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) last week that he would not agree to a short-term government spending bill without budget cuts - even a stopgap measure at current levels.

On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he will introduce a 30-day continuing resolution next week that extends the deadline for negotiating a "common-sense, long-term solution," Reid said in a statement.

"It is time to drop the threats and ultimatums, and work together on a path forward," Reid said. "I am asking Speaker Boehner to simply take the threat of a government shutdown off the table, and work with us to negotiate a responsible, long-term solution."

Suzanne Kubota, Julia Ziegler and Ruben Gomez contributed to this story.

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