October Shutdown Will Last At Least A Week
This is being written less than 10 full days before the start of the new fiscal year. Four of these days occur over a weekend.
As I said in my previous post, none of the individual appropriations for fiscal 2014 have yet been enacted and none have any chance of being enacted.
The House earlier today passed a continuing resolution that, in theory would keep the government funded until December 15 and, therefore, avoid a shutdown. But the bill includes a poison pill -- defunding Obamacare -- that Senate Democrats and the White House say they absolutely won't accept in any form.
As a result, barely a week before the fiscal year begins, the process for avoiding a government shutdown has barely moved from the situation that existed a week, a month, and six months ago. Because of that, a shutdown has to be considered more likely now than it was when this week started.
It's not that what the House did this week wasn't a more-or-less standard legislative maneuver. It was. Or at least it would have been typical had it taken place in July when preliminaries like this usually happen.
But a purely symbolic vote 10 days before the fiscal year is about to begin is nothing more than legislative masturbation: It may feel good but it doesn't really accomplish anything other than taking up some time.
My reading of the tea leaves is that there are only two ways to avoid a shutdown at this point: If everyone in Washington stops being fierce partisans and starts acting rationally, or if one side totally capitulates to the other.
Because the first is so unlikely that it borders being absurd and the second is so unlikely that it approaches being ridiculous, it's time to stop talking about if and start talking about what happens when a shutdown will occur.
October 1 is on a Tuesday, so it's likely that, if there are any last-minute, stop-the-shutdown discussions, they will occur over the previous weekend and continue through Monday.
Federal facilities will be open on Monday, September 30 because they are funded through midnight that day. But without an early resolution to the standoff agencies and departments will spend much of that day preparing to shutdown. The Office of Management and Budget has already issued guidance about a shutdown. It almost certainly will issue additional information on Monday about which activities will cease, who is to come to work, etc.
OMB, the Office of Personnel Management and the White House may all hold press conferences on Monday both to advise the public about the federal activities that will cease at midnight and to put additional pressure on Congress to conclude a deal.
My guess...and at this point that's all it is...is that if a shutdown occurs on Tuesday it will last through the week.
The reason is simple. Once a shutdown begins, it will take several days for the amusement with the spectacle to change to frustration and anger. It will only be at that point -- when companies that do business with the federal government realize that their invoices aren't being processed and those waiting for visas and passports can't get them and so have to postpone trips, for example -- that the politics of the shutdown will change and members of Congress will feel some additional pressure from their constituents to reopen federal facilities.
Given that most federal offices are closed on Saturday and Sunday, the real pressure will be to get the government reopen by Monday, October 7.
In other words, if a shutdown occurs at the start of October, it will likely last at least a week.