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HEAR THIS HOUR'S UPDATE

Entries in Government Shutdown (72)

Thursday
Apr072011

No Deal Yet After White House Budget Meeting

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- After a late night, 90-minute meeting Wednesday in the Oval Office with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker John Boehner, President Obama declared no deal in the budget standoff but still called the meeting "productive" and is confident a deal can get done before a government shutdown comes.

"I thought the meetings were frank, they were constructive and what they did was narrow the issues and clarify the issues that are still outstanding," Obama said, though he declined to elaborate on the sticking points.

"I remain confident that if we are serious about getting something done, we should be able to complete the deal and get it passed and avert a shutdown.  But it’s going to require a sufficient sense of urgency from all parties involved.  It means the people will have to recognize that a government shutdown has real consequences for real people," Obama said from the podium in the briefing room. 

Obama vowed an around-the-clock effort and promised a status check Thursday morning.

"If we haven't made progress, we're going to go back at it again.  And we're going to keep on pounding away at this thing because I'm absolutely convinced that we can get this done," Obama said.  "There’s no reason why we should not be able to complete a deal."

After Obama finished making his points, Boehner and Reid took their turn in front of the cameras, making their respective points outside the White House.

Describing the meeting, Reid said, "It was very honest, we’ve narrowed the issues significantly and we’re going to continue working.  Our staffs are going to work through the night.  The speaker and I will get back together tomorrow morning and see how they did and continue.  I have confidence that we can get this done.  We are not there yet but the hope lies eternal."

Boehner echoed Reid but added his own twist, saying no numbers or policy have been settled.

"We did have a productive conversation this evening," Boehner said.  "We do have some honest differences but I do think we made some progress.  But I want to reiterate that there is no agreement on a number and there is no agreement on the policy.  But there’s an intent on both sides to continue to work together to try to resolve this.  No one wants the government to shut down.  We are going to continue to work throughout the night and tomorrow."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Apr062011

Obama Meets with Congressional Leaders to Facilitate Budget Deal

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Imag(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama said he had a "productive meeting" at the White House Wednesday evening with House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.  It's the second second day in a row the president has met with congressional leaders of both parties to spur negotiations on a deal to avert a government shutdown.

"I thought the meetings were frank, they were constructive," Obama said, adding that the discussions helped focus the issues at hand.

Obama suggested he would keep the pressure on both sides to reach a deal before government funding runs out at midnight Friday.

"My expectation is that folks will work through the night," Obama said. "If we haven't made progress [by morning], we're going to go at it again.

"There is no reason we should not be able to complete a deal," Obama added. "I want to meet the expectations of the American people in terms of delivering with them."

A White House official said in advance of Wednesday's White House meeting that the goal was not to reach a deal, but to keep negotiations on track amid fears they "went off the rails." 

Capitol Hill sources had agreed major developments were unlikely at the White House meeting, but offered a more positive take on the state of negotiations.  A top Republican said he was "much more optimistic" that a deal would be struck to avoid a shutdown. A top Democrat put even odds on avoiding a shutdown, but added of negotiations, "We are pretty much there substantively."

A government shutdown would have wide effects, officials said, including cutting off pay for military personnel and delaying many tax refunds.

At least 800,000 federal employees were expected to be furloughed, the same as during the 1995 government shutdown. But unlike then, it's unclear whether they would receive back pay for the lost time.

Members of Congress, however, will continue to be paid. Every lawmaker must decide which of their employees is considered essential and should be kept on staff while the government is closed.

The clock quickly is running out for lawmakers. Per House rules, legislation has to be posted 48 hours before a vote, which means the GOP leadership has until Thursday morning to post a bill to avert a shutdown.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

Wednesday
Apr062011

Government Shutdown: Which Offices Will Stay Open, Which Will Close

Antonio M. Rosario/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- As Democrats and Republicans bicker over $30 billion, thousands of government employees fret over whether they can go to work on Monday. After the current continuing budget resolution expires at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, all "nonessential" government employees will be sent home until Congress passes and the president signs a budget for the remainder of fiscal year 2011.

The problem is, no one knows exactly who is considered "essential." A senior administration official said about 800,000 federal employees would be prevented from working in the event of a shutdown. These furloughed workers would not be paid during the shutdown, zapping $1.1 billion out of the economy in unpaid wages for a week-long shutdown.

ABC News has rounded up information from as many agencies as possible to find out who stays home and who goes to work, and how it might affect you.

Postal Service: The government shutdown won't affect mail delivery or mail processing, as the Postal Service is self-funded. "We don't get any taxpayer money. So we are not part of appropriations process. We will carry on and do what we always do: Deliver the mail," said a Postal Service spokesperson.

Medicare: People will still receive Medicare benefits, paid for by an emergency trust fund. If, hypothetically, the shutdown were to last for many months, Medicare benefits would stop, but the odds of a shutdown that lengthy are slim.

Social Security: Payments will continue as usual.

IRS: Working, but with limited services. The tax deadline, April 18, will not change, but the IRS will not process any paper tax returns, which account for 30 percent of the total returns filed. Tax audits will be suspended, and trademark and patent applications could also be delayed. The IRS will, however, continue to collect tax money.

Military: Military personnel will continue to work but will not be paid during a shutdown. They should earn backpay once Congress passes an appropriations bill. A bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill Wednesday to make sure members of the military would get paid even if the government shut down.

Airports: Air traffic controllers and Transportation Security Administration agents are considered "essential" employees.

Congress: Every member of Congress decides who on their staff is "essential" personnel. Many have said they will not furlough any of their staff members. Any staff members who are furloughed will not only be banned from the halls of Congress during the shutdown period, they will also have to turn off their office-issued BlackBerry cellphones.

Department of Homeland Security: Working, but with limited services. Over 80 percent of the DHS workforce has been deemed to be "essential" personnel for agencies such as TSA, Customs and Border Protection, Secret Service, Coast Guard, FEMA and Immigration Customs Enforcement. The host of employees from intelligence analysts to cyber security officials are also considered "essential" and will continue working.

Law Enforcement: At such agencies as the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Marshals, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. it will, for the most part, be business as usual.

Department of Justice: Working, but with limited services. The Criminal Division and the National Security Division, which conducts counterterrorism/counterespionage operations and wiretaps, would continue working, but large bureaucratic agencies, such as the Office of Justice Programs and Bureau of Justice Statistics, are not likely to be viewed as essential.

Federal Prisons: The prison system will be virtually unaffected by a government shutdown.

Passport Processing: Passport processing employees will be sent home during the shutdown, causing delays in the 200,000 passport applications currently pending. Visa processing will also be delayed or halted.

Federal Housing Administration: In the event of a shutdown, the FHA, which guarantees 30 percent of all mortgages, would not be able to guarantee housing loans. That "would have significant impact on the housing market," according to a senior administration official.

National Transportation Safety Board: Working, but with limited services. The chairman and the managing director may authorize very specific investigative activity, such as new investigations on major accidents involving significant casualties; accidents in which investigation is deemed necessary to transportation safety; and extremely limited support for ongoing investigative activity in which delay could pose a risk to public safety. All other activities will cease.

Small Business Administration: SBA approval of business loan guarantees and direct loans to people would stop, which would have an "impact on economic momentum," according to a senior administration official.

State Department: Working, but with limited services. The department will continue working domestically, issuing travel advisories and working with American citizens. It refused to comment on all foreign services.Other consular functions, like helping Americans in distress abroad, are likely to continue and other functions of the State Department and parts of its embassies that are deemed essential for national security reasons will continue.

Environmental Protection Agency: Working, but with limited services. The EPA will continue to do work that "affects safety and life" including monitoring radiation from Japan. Environmental claims processing would cease, along with toxic waste clean-up at EPA Superfund sites .The EPA will cease issuing permits, and delay work on environmental impact statements. And urgent new initiatives, including efforts to address mercury in the air and unregulated contaminants in drinking water, would be set back.

Department of Energy: The Energy Department will not furlough any employees and it will be basically business as usual because of a "no-year fund" that would pay for expenses in the event of a lapse in federal funding, according to a department official.

National Park Service: All national parks, such as Yosemite, Mount Rushmore, the Grand Canyon and monuments, would be closed. A Department of the Interior spokesperson said, "The National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management will close and secure park, refuge and visitor facilities on public lands. Limited personnel needed to protect life and property on public lands, such as law enforcement, emergency services and firefighting personnel, will be exempted from furlough." During the 1995 shutdown, the National Park Service turned away roughly seven million visitors and two million visitors were lock out of national monuments and museums. The gates to major parks were closed and locked up, and wire fences and chains were strung up around national monuments. This also means D.C's Cherry Blossom Festival events that take place on federal park property, most notably Saturday's parade, will be canceled.

Department of Defense: Working, but with limited services. A "significant number" of civilian employees will be furloughed.

Smithsonian Institute: All Smithsonian museums will be closed.

National Institutes of Health: Working but limited. NIH will not take any new patients or start new trials, but the clinical trials in progress will continue. There are seven new procedures that are scheduled to begin next week. There are 640 current clinical trials, none of which will be able to accept new patients during a shutdown.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Apr062011

John Boehner Cries Amid Government Shutdown Standoff

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- John Boehner was driven to tears again Wednesday.  This time it happened at a closed-door meeting of House Republicans.

According to sources inside the meeting, it happened while Boehner was speaking to the group about the latest on his negotiations with Democrats over government funding.  Boehner talked about his meeting on Tuesday with President Obama and then, in a rousing conclusion, he thanked the House Republicans for standing by him and supporting him through these tense negotiations.

The Republican conference responded with a standing ovation for their speaker.

As you could imagine, that prompted the Speaker to cry.

“Yes,” said one person at the meeting. “He cried, but only briefly.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

Wednesday
Apr062011

FBI Director Says Gov. Shutdown Impacting Morale at Bureau

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- At the House appropriations committee Wednesday morning, FBI Director Robert Mueller said talk of the looming government shutdown is already having a negative impact on morale at the FBI.

"Its adversely affecting morale in the Bureau because a number of persons don't know if they are going to be here on Monday, they don't know if they are going to get paid...it's tremendously disruptive to somebody who has given their service to a place like the Bureau. "

"I do expect our investigations will continue unhindered...but we have to evaluate every day....it's difficult."  Mueller said.

Director Mueller said matters such as training and new initiatives could be impacted.

While most FBI agents, especially in national security positions will not stop working during the shutdown it is unclear what will happen to many FBI analysts and linguists who work with agents at FBI Headquarters and in the FBI's field offices.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Apr062011

Lawmakers' Budget Talks with Obama Go Nowhere

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama said Tuesday he'll keep meeting with congressional leaders until a budget deal for 2011 is agreed upon following discussions at the White House that apparently produced little in the way of a compromise.

Obama held talks with House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other lawmakers in hopes of finding common ground to avoid a looming government shutdown this Friday.  However, the president and Democrats complained that Boehner, who is under pressure by the Tea Party and conservatives to make massive cuts, keeps "moving the goal posts" in terms of what figure would make everyone happy.

Currently, it seems to be a $40 billion package of cuts, down from the $61 billion proposed by the GOP-controlled House but certainly far higher than the initial White House offering of $6 billion several weeks ago.

Reid complained that Republicans "are not trying to arrive at the finish line.  It appears that they’re going to do everything they can to satisfy the Tea Party."

Be that as it may, Boehner and Reid met privately after their chat with the president in hopes of getting the talks on track so that a government shutdown isn't necessary.

Frustrated by the lack of movement, Obama said that he wants to see both congressional leaders at the White House Wednesday if they're still far apart.

The administration is fearful that a shutdown could damage the still fragile economic recovery following the worst downturn in 80 years.

The president sounded frustrated when speaking to reporters, saying, "This is not a way to run a government....We don’t have time for games.  We are now closer than we have ever been to getting an agreement.  There is no reason why we should not get an agreement."

Complicating matters is the GOP's insistence on including riders to the budget bill that would defund Planned Parenthood and NPR and calls for the repeal of the healthcare law.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Apr062011

What a Government Shutdown Might Look Like

ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- No one in Washington is saying what exactly a government shutdown would entail if lawmakers can't reach a deal before Friday on the 2011 fiscal budget, or at least come up with another continuing resolution so things can operate for another week while they keep negotiating.

But if the last shutdown -- which spanned 21 days from 1995 into 1996 -- is any guide, here's what might happen initially:

1. No clean-up of toxic waste at Superfund sites.

2. Nobody answering hotlines at the National Institutes of Health.

3. No work on delinquent child-support or bankruptcy cases.

4. No national parks and federal tourist destinations open for business.  These shutdowns would also affect restaurants, hotels and airlines that depend on visitors to these sites.

5. No one to process payments to recipients of Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare electronically or take new enrollments.

6. Delayed benefits decisions for veterans.

7. No one to process passport and visa applications.

8. Interrupted waste disposal at the National Zoo.

9. Locked doors at the Library of Congress and presidential libraries.

10. Delayed clinical trials and decisions on regulating new drugs and devices related to public health and safety.

Of course, workers responsible for these agencies and programs would also be furloughed during a shutdown, meaning they aren't getting paid.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Apr052011

Rep. Pence: 'Shut it Down' if Democrats Won't Agree to Cuts

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- As the federal spending clock ticks down a possible government shutdown on Friday, Republicans are claiming that a failure to keep the government running would be Democrats’ fault, arguing that such a scenario would only come about if Democrats don’t agree to sufficient spending cuts.

But several prominent Republicans are also threatening to vote against any budget deal that in their view doesn’t go far enough in slashing spending.

Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., told ABC News Tuesday that if the only alternative is continuing spending at unsustainable levels, “then I say shut it down.”

“Nobody wants to shut down the federal government. But if we don't take decisive efforts to change the fiscal direction of this national government, we're going to shut down the future for our children and grandchildren, and that would be decidedly worse,” Pence said.

“Look -- if liberals in the Senate and in this administration want to continue to play political games instead of accepting very modest budget cuts, then if they'd rather embrace a government shutdown than make a down payment on fiscal responsibility, then I say shut it down. And I still feel very strongly that way.”

Pence said Republicans should stand behind their proposal to cut $61 billion from this year’s spending bills -- and to insist on denying federal funding for Planned Parenthood, as the House voted to do last month.

“I think that's where we draw the line. We dig in and we say, this far and no further,” Pence said. “Things don't change in Washington, D.C., until they have to. And that's why I think that if the administration and liberals in the Senate don't want to come in our direction and accept that modest down payment on fiscal discipline, then let's just have it out.”

Pence also had praise for the budget proposal put forward Tuesday by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., while adding that he’ll probably also throw his support behind a measure that would enact even deeper cuts.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Apr052011

Obama: No Time For Games on 2011 Spending Bill

ABC News (file)(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama made a rare appearance in the White House briefing room Tuesday to push members of Congress to come together on a plan to fund the government until September, painting a stark picture of what would happen if there's a shut down Friday.

"At a time when the economy is just beginning to grow...the last thing we need is a disruption that's caused by a government shutdown, not to mention all the people who depend on government services," the president said. "It would be inexcusable for us to not be able to take care of last year's business...when we are this close, simply because of politics."

Obama, who met with Democratic and Republican leaders at the White House on Tuesday, said he is ready to meet again Wednesday if lawmakers can't find a resolution.

Americans "don't like these games and we don't have time for them," the president said.

Days away from the deadline, Republicans and Democrats are at a stalemate over what should be cut in the remainder of the fiscal 2011 budget, and Tuesday's meeting bore little fruit, signaling that the government could be one step closer to a shutdown.

Federal agencies have put together contingency plans in the case of a shutdown, which last happened 15 years ago during the Clinton administration, in 1996.

White House officials have started telling agency and cabinet officials to begin informing managers about shutdown plans.

Government shutdowns are not a new phenomenon, though their effects vary depending on the country's economic and political situation.

There were six government shutdowns between 1977 and 1980, ranging from eight to 17 days, according to the Congressional Research Service. From 1981-1995, there were nine such occurrences, lasting three days each.

The longest government shutdown was during President Clinton's administration in 1995 and 1996, when it lasted for 21 days and paralyzed important government functions.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Apr052011

White House Officials: Prepare for Shutdown, Just in Case

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- White House officials have started telling agency and cabinet officials to begin informing managers about shutdown plans -- just in case.

White House officials caution that such steps would be in motion at this point, regardless of how well the negotiations were going to avert a government shutdown before Friday.  But make no mistake: negotiations are not going well.

“We are aware of the calendar, and to be prudent and prepare for the chance that Congress may not pass a funding bill in time, the Office of Management and Budget [Tuesday] encouraged agency heads to begin sharing their contingency plans with senior managers throughout their organization to ensure that they have their feedback and input,” OMB spokesman Ken Baer told ABC News.  “As the week progresses, we will continue to take necessary steps to prepare for the possibility that Congress is unable to come to agreement and a lapse in government funding ensues.”

President Obama Tuesday morning will host congressional leaders at the White House to try to cobble together a compromise for a short term budget to avoid a shutdown.

Democrats close to the process complain the biggest problem is that Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, simply does not control his unruly caucus, so negotiating is extremely difficult.

But be forewarned: this is just act one of a much longer play.  The next act will be the debate over raising the debt ceiling.

In a letter to congressional leaders Monday, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner warned that the debt ceiling must be raised no later than May 16.  Defaulting “would cause a financial crisis potentially more severe than the crisis from which we are only now starting to recover,” he wrote.

Following that will be the larger debate over debt and deficits, with Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget -- introduced Tuesday -- serving as the opening GOP salvo.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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