Analysis: What are the budget scenarios?

Monday - 4/4/2011, 3:58pm EDT

Jim Horney, Director of Federal Fiscal Policy, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

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Shutdown or no shutdown?

The range of possible outcomes in this week's budget talks are more varied than you may think.

One possibility is a short-term continuing resolution for a few days past this Friday's deadline to buy a little extra time for Congress to pass a fiscal year 2011 budget. But there is "clearly resistance" to that option, said Jim Horney, director of federal fiscal policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

It's also "conceivable" that lawmakers won't reach an agreement and agencies will have to make preparations for a shutdown, Horney said.

During the last partial government shutdown in 1995 and 1996, Congress had been able to pass full-year appropriations already, so some agencies were not affected by the spending gap when Congress could not pass a budget. But the difference now is Congress has not passed any full-year appropriation bills, Horney said.

"I think a shutdown, if it lasted a long time, would be more far-reaching than what we had in 1995 and 1996," Horney said.

The length of the shutdown could also affect who is furloughed.

In some situations, it "would not be necessary for people to keep working in the short-run but in the longer run, in order to protect property, health and safety, you may need to bring people back," Horney said.

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