The blame game over a possible government shutdown has begun three and a half months before the end of the fiscal year.
That much, but little else, became clear last week as President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner traded accusations over FY 2014 funding levels.
As the House readied to pass the Homeland Security and Military Construction/Veterans Affairs appropriations bills for FY 2014, the President threatened to veto them both along with Republican plans for all of the other appropriations bills. The House passed the two bills anyway.
At issue is both the overall spending level and the distribution of funds in the House Republican bills. Total spending is being set in accordance with the sequester but the mix of funding is being altered to boost defense-related accounts and set up deeper cuts to domestic programs.
Boehner responded to the President in a sharply-worded letter accusing him of “raising the specter” of a government shutdown.
Without a congressional budget resolution to guide the process, Senate appropriators are writing bills with a total funding level $90 billion higher than in the House — assuming the sequester doesn’t take place.
Such a large difference between the two chambers dramatically increases the possibility of a government shutdown in the fall.
With both parties wanting to alter the sequester, the obvious solution would be for them to agree to new funding levels in the course of a larger agreement on a budget resolution and the long-term direction for government spending and revenues.