Richard M. Pious responds to "Next budget-slicing hostage drama"

Letters to the Editor

August 5, 2011 — Government doesn’t shut down if appropriations aren’t passed, provided Congress does what it often does, which is to pass continuing resolutions. Often appropriations are not completed until well after the new fiscal year begins.

And remember, many agencies operate with multi-year appropriations, and a combination of prior and current year spending authority. So outlays don’t end immediately if a new appropriations bill is not passed

Richard M. Pious, Adolph and Effie Ochs Professor, Barnard College; Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Columbia University (New York, New York)


Editor’s reply:

Your point about the existence of multi-year appropriations (for some agencies) is indisputable, although I think you’d agree that the blocking of current-year funding for such an agency would force some operations to be curtailed.

Likewise, I wouldn’t and couldn’t disagree with your observation about what Congress “often does” — that is, pass continuing resolutions.

But I do disagree that it is safe to assume that the Congressional majorities needed to pass continuing resolutions (even to continue flat, at FY11 spending levels) will be forthcoming.

It is hardly a flight of fancy to note that Congress has not been acting as it usually does, and we can’t ignore the fact that the need for a continuing resolution to fund the balance of FY11 operations was the vehicle through which the GOP wrung budget cuts this past spring.

It may turn out that House Republicans are inclined to avoid an appropriations fight with a President who has repeatedly met provocation with concessions, but I wouldn’t bet the farm.

Craig Gurian


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