Issue Date: September 30, 2013 | Web Date: September 27, 2013
Government Shutdown Looms
As Congress continues bickering about the 2014 federal budget, science agencies are preparing for a partial government shutdown that could come on Oct. 1 if no agreement is reached by midnight on Sept. 30.
“Without critical federal research funding, grants will be eliminated or delayed, thus disrupting the scientific enterprise that drives U.S. innovation,” says Glenn S. Ruskin, spokesman for the American Chemical Society.
The 2014 fiscal year for the federal government starts on Oct. 1, but Congress has failed to pass a budget through the normal legislative process. To avoid shuttering many operations, lawmakers can use a continuing resolution to keep the government running on a temporary basis. But, as has become common, Congress’s passing of such a resolution is being held up by politics.
Federal agencies, including those that support R&D, are scrambling to figure out what to do if they run out of money. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy says that the agency will essentially close, with most of its 17,000 employees staying home. And the Department of Defense has said that the majority of its civilian employees, which includes almost all of its scientists, would be furloughed.
At Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, home to the Air Force Research Laboratory, officials are updating their contingency plans to prepare for an orderly shutdown, spokesman Daryl Mayer says. “A shutdown would put severe hardships on an already stressed workforce,” he says. Since March, scientists and other employees government wide have been furloughed and their operating budgets have been cut through sequestration—across-the-board cuts that resulted from previous budget battles.
Earlier this month, Republicans in the House of Representatives did pass a continuing resolution (H.J. Res. 59) that would keep the government running until Dec. 15 at levels that include sequestration. But the bill forwarded to the Senate also contains a provision to defund the Affordable Care Act, widely known as Obamacare.
Senate leaders plan to strip the health care provision and may shift the budget extension deadline to Nov. 15 before sending the bill back to the House. House leaders say they are unlikely to pass the bill in that form. The Senate vote was still pending as C&EN went to press.
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