No shutdown, but budget constraints for federal agencies

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While Congress has avoided a government shutdown for now, the interim bill passed Thursday will only fund the government until Dec. 3.

So how does the federal government operate when it’s unclear what the next budget will cover?

For the general public, the government will seem to be functioning normally this fall.

“Social Security sends the check. Medicare pays for your stuff. The offices are open. You can get your passport,” said Laura Blessing of Georgetown University’s Government Affairs Institute.

The temporary funding bill includes additional funds to repair hurricane damage and resettle refugees. So “the damage done by government funding in this way is largely hidden,” she said.

Here’s how it’s supposed to work: Congress passes a series of spending bills, and the president signs them before the new government fiscal year begins on Oct. 1. operating on last year’s budget.

That means everything is day-to-day, said Max Stier, head of the good government group Partnership for Public Service.

“So for me, the metaphor is really, you know, you’re going to buy and eat a whole loaf of bread, but you’re only given the money to buy each slice of bread individually, one at a time,” he said. said.

You can’t buy in bulk, so you end up spending a lot more – and you can’t change how you spend money. So what if a Navy ship is under repair and you need more welders than last year’s budget? Shame.

“What you can’t do is go out, post an ad and say, ‘We need welders and brazers. Hire here today, ‘and then onboard them quickly,’ said Mackenzie Eaglen, defense analyst at the American Enterprise Institute.

The Pentagon can’t even retire old ships or weapon systems it no longer wants, Eaglen said.

All of this adds up to unnecessary waste and inefficiency, which taxpayers will end up paying for – although they may not notice anything different for the next few months.

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