Issue Date: April 11, 2011
With only hours left before the latest measure to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year was set to expire last week, leaders in both houses of Congress remained unable to find common ground on budget cuts and an array of policy proscriptions. Without a deal, government agencies moved toward a shutdown at midnight on April 9.
At C&EN’s deadline, House of Representatives Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), with the help of the White House, continued to work on a deal that both Republicans and Democrats could support. The sticking points reportedly involved just how much money to cut from the so-called discretionary or nondefense portion of the federal budget and whether amendments for an array of Republican policy positions would be attached to the final spending bill.
“I remain confident that if we’re serious about getting something done, we should be able to complete a deal and get it passed and avert a shutdown,” President Barack Obama said at a brief April 6 news conference that followed a late-night meeting with House and Senate leaders. Boehner and Reid called the talk “productive,” although no agreements had been reached.
Talks were expected to continue nonstop in an attempt to avoid a shutdown. It was hoped that another stopgap funding measure could win support at the eleventh hour, but Obama said he would sign off on such a short-term deal only if significant progress was being made toward a final measure for fiscal 2011.
As the congressional debate played out, federal agencies were making plans to deal with a possible shutdown. Most agencies were keeping those plans confidential.
But at the Department of Energy, April 11 will be a normal working day regardless of a government shutdown. In a memo obtained by C&EN, DOE Secretary Steven Chu states that because the department has “no-year appropriations”—that is, money that is not budgeted for a given year—DOE would continue to operate, at least for a while.
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