Although Democrats will run both chambers of Congress through December, they are reeling from the results of the Nov. 2 elections, which will give Republicans control of the House of Representatives next year and a strengthened minority in the Senate. (Karen Bleier / AFP)
The federal government could be headed for a shutdown at midnight Saturday, and the problem might not be fixed before Monday morning rush hour, Senate sources say.
Agencies currently are operating at fiscal 2010 spending levels under a continuing resolution that expires at midnight Saturday. It remains possible for the Senate to pass another short-term CR that would keep the government running for another three or four days beyond Saturday, then to vote on final appropriations for the entire fiscal year. But Senate sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, cite another scenario that could lead to a shutdown.
There is a strong possibility opponents of the $1.1 trillion fiscal 2011 omnibus funding bill will require clerks to read aloud the 1,924-page Senate document. Reading the bill is expected to start sometime on Friday, and not be finished until Sunday. Reading of the bill could be followed by another day or more of debate. Then, the Senate may not be able to vote on funding until 1 a.m. Monday, at the earliest.
Senate leaders believe a midnight Saturday shutdown of the government would cause little harm because essential employees are required to work even if there is no funding and most government workers wouldn't return to the office until Monday.
If the problem runs into Monday, federal workers likely would report to work for the day but could be sent home, Senate sources said.
The House and Senate have different ideas about how to handle funding for the fiscal year that started 2½ months ago. The House's measure, the Full Year Continuing Appropriations Act, freezes most federal agencies at 2010 levels and includes few provisions making specific changes. The Senate measure, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, is a compilation of the 12 appropriations bills for fiscal 2011 that traditionally pass as individual measures.