Federal workers might not be sent home on furlough this month, even if Congress and President Clinton can’t settle on a budget plan, two Washington Republicans predicted Wednesday.
But agencies without budgets may find themselves with less money to spend, and some programs the Republicans oppose may have nothing.
As Republican leaders canceled budget talks in the other Washington, Rep. George Nethercutt and Sen. Slade Gorton said in separate interviews they are becoming increasingly pessimistic that a budget compromise will be reached.
“I’d say it’s less than a 50-50 shot,” Gorton said.
Both said they were unhappy with the past shutdowns, although both blamed Clinton, not Congress, for the time federal workers spent off the job.
“I never liked the idea of the shutdown,” said Gorton during an interview in his office.
“In retrospect, I wish we could do it over,” Nethercutt echoed a few hours later during a reception with the Spokane Area Chamber of Commerce.
Without an agreement between Clinton and Congress, the federal government could be forced to operate through Sept. 30 without a complete spending plan. Some agencies wouldn’t be affected because they already have budgets under the seven appropriations bills that have been passed and signed into law.
Other agencies don’t, because their appropriations bills have either been vetoed and not overridden, or because Congress has yet to pass their bills.
Congress might decide to give agencies without their appropriations some money - perhaps three-fourths of what they had last year, Nethercutt said. House Republicans are working on a plan that would “zero out” some programs and fund others.
That strategy might run into trouble in the Senate, where Democrats or Republicans could mount a filibuster to save any program that affects their state, Gorton said.
After weeks of demanding that Clinton produce a budget that is balanced within seven years, Republicans have shifted their criticism to the way the president’s plan balances.
“He just wiped out the tax cuts,” said Gorton. “We are not willing to pass a budget that doesn’t deal with entitlements.”
Entitlements are a broad category of spending that includes Social Security, welfare, Medicare and Medicaid.