Federal Times Blogs
Good morning! As many observers predicted, the government shutdown crisis has now morphed into the will-Congress-raise-the-debt-ceiling-in-time-to-avert-a-global-financial-panic crisis. Although there are some glimmers of movement, it’s less clear in what direction. If the presumption is that both stalemates will be settled together, however, that means furloughed feds will likely remain out of work through at least part of next week.
The Washington Post, for example, reports today that key congressional Republicans are showing willingness to back down from their insistence on delaying or defunding implementation of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) as the price of reopening shuttered agencies.
But with the government expecting to be unable to pay all its bills as early as next Thursday, the administration is now focused on getting GOP lawmakers to take the threat seriously, according to The Hill. Some GOP lawmakers have questioned whether a debt default would really lead to a cataclysm; at a Senate Finance Committee hearing this morning, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew blasted those arguments as “irresponsible and reckless,” according to prepared testimony released in advance.
One option would be a short-term agreement to raise the debt ceiling in return for talks over broader changes to the tax code and federal benefit programs. That could include asking federal employees to contribute more to their retirement, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., wrote in an opinion piece published in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal (online a day earlier).
Another possibility (not mentioned in Ryan’s piece, but backed by both the White House and many Republicans) would be switching to the “chained consumer price index” as the inflation gauge for calculating cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) to federal pensions, veterans benefits and Social Security payments. There’s thus far no evidence that the administration is willing to put that on the table as part of a bipartisan budget deal, but just in case, federal employee organizations and other groups held a preemptive news conference yesterday to denounce the idea.
In other news, the Defense Department announced that it’s effectively outsourcing the payment of death gratuities to survivors of fallen service members to a private foundation. In a statement accompanying the announcement, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said he was “offended, outraged and embarrassed” that the government couldn’t keep making these payments on its own. But even after passage of the Pay Our Military Act, Hagel said, “we found that we lacked the necessary authority to make these payments to the families directly.”
Any major developments we’ve missed, particularly in regard to agency news? Let us know with an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
T Perry Says:
October 10th, 2013 at 12:52 pm
There is work than needed to be done during the fall that could not be done due to the shut down that possibly will have long term ramifications. Examples I have heard about: fuel reduction projects, treatment of pine beetles before they go into hibernation, recruitment of seasonal employees, state trail project and grant processes. Ramifications: areas that will burn in the coming year, more trees killed by beetles, seasonal employees hired/trained later into project season so less work will be completed. Good seasonal employees will apply other places because our work is shorter and uncertain. Miss opportunities to work with states on trail/grant projects, so again less trail work (hiking/ATV/etc) will be completed. Also, contractors that have not been able to work on construction/maintenance projects that might have to wait until spring now, which means increased cost of those contracts. Vendors that supplied supplies or services in September that did not get paid should be receiving interest on those late payments…these extra costs are paid out of agency appropriations..I.e. our tax dollars. The shut down is costing more than anyone really realizes!