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What will happen if Congress fails to enact a Continuing Resolution by October 1, 2013

The Atlantic – The Odd Story of the Law That Dictates How Government Shutdowns Work, by Andrew Cohen

“If rogue Republicans do not relent over the budget impasse by October 1, whatever pandemonium happens next will largely be governed by a federal statute you likely have never heard of: the Antideficiency Act. You can call it the “anti-deadbeat” law — a collection of statutory and administrative provisions, really — that forbid federal officials from entering into financial obligations for which they do not have funding, like paying the salaries of their employees or buying the things they need to run the government. It’s also the law that wisely permits certain “essential” government functions — like the military and the courts, for example — to keep operating even in the absence of authorized legislative funding. Predictably, there aren’t many legal experts who have built careers around the Antideficiency Act, but I managed to corral a few. The most important messages they offer are these: 1) It’s not just present federal work that’s affected by the shutdown, it’s future work, too; and 2) shutting down the federal government is terribly wasteful and expensive because of the re-start costs involved. That’s the point made by the acclaimed dean of Antideficiency Act scholars, University of Baltimore Law Professor Charles Tiefer (“For obscure details,” he told me, “you’ve come to the right guy.”). It’s not just that many federal operations will shut down next week, Tiefer said, it’s that “all kinds of planning and preparation for federal activity in the months and weeks to come” will become “increasingly neglected and disjointed if the showdown lasts more than a couple of days.” Here’s a key passage from the statute…”

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