OMB Makes Call to Prepare for Government Shutdown

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By Cheryl Bolen

The White House said it prefers a two-year pact to replace the soon-to-expire stopgap funding law keeping the government open, even as the Office of Management and Budget confirmed it had recently taken a required step to prepare for a potential shutdown.

The OMB’s mandatory, government-wide conference call to agency heads to discuss the logistics of a government shutdown was made Jan. 12, an OMB spokeswoman told Bloomberg Government Jan. 16.

At a press briefing, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the White House would prefer a two-year budget agreement to replace the stopgap funding resolution that expires Jan. 19. But with no agreement in sight, congressional leaders already are floating the idea of another short-term continuing resolution to keep the government operating through Feb. 16.

Under Circular A-11, which governs the budget process, one week prior to the expiration of appropriations bills, regardless of whether the enactment of appropriations appears imminent, OMB must convene a meeting or teleconference with agency senior officials to remind agencies of their responsibilities to review and update orderly shutdown plans.

“Per that guidance in Circular A-11, we held a call Friday afternoon [Jan. 12],” said an OMB spokeswoman.

Prudent Management

Prudent management requires that agencies be prepared for the possibility of a lapse in appropriations, and OMB has held these calls with agencies since 2013, the spokeswoman said.Calls were made once in 2013 (for fiscal year 2014), once in 2015 (for FY 2016), and three times for FY 2017, the spokeswoman said.

Agencies are updating their contingency plans as necessary, which are posted to the White House website, the spokeswoman said. Although many agencies last updated their plans in 2015, several departments submitted updated plans in December 2017.

Congress has passed three short-term bills so far to keep the government open in FY 2018. In addition to unrelated issues including immigration policy, funding for children’s health care, and disaster relief, a dispute over how much to allocate to defense and non-defense programs has prevented negotiators from reaching a final funding agreement.

Blame Game

At the White House, Sanders said the president does not want to see the government shut down. “We’d still like to see a budget deal that is a two-year budget deal that is a clean budget deal—we haven’t given up on that,” she said.

The president hopes that Democrats will not hold the government hostage or stop military spending because of politics, “and that’s what we’re hoping for,” Sanders said.

But it is the president, not Democrats, who needs to accept the bipartisan immigration deal that would help secure the votes for a budget, said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).

“He can’t just play a game of brinksmanship,” Schumer said. “He can’t just be obstinate and say ‘my way or the highway.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Cheryl Bolen in Washington, D.C. at cbolen@bgov.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Hendrie at phendrie@bgov.com

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