A week from today is October 1, New Year’s Day for those who live on the federal government fiscal year calendar. And, for many of them, it could become an unintended, and unwanted, holiday. With no appropriations bills for fiscal year 2014 passed to date, Congress needs to approve a continuing resolution to keep the government funded at 2013 levels. However, the Republican-controlled House and Democratic-controlled Senate are at loggerheads over a provision in the House CR, passed on Friday, that would defund provisions of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), language that would not survive in the Senate. The Senate will debate its version of a CR this week and likely pass it by this weekend, POLITICO reports, without the Obamacare language but perhaps covering a shorter span: until November 15, instead of December 15 as in the House.
Unless the House changes course and agrees to the Senate version, or some other compromise between the two chambers is worked out, next Tuesday will arrive without a funding mechanism in place, precipitating a government “shutdown.” That term is in quotes because, as the AP reported last week, less than half of the 2.1 million federal government employees would be out of work if there is a shutdown. Essential government operations would continue, which would cover at least some NASA operations, for example. There certainly would be visible disruptions, though: an OMB memo last week about a potential shutdown states that government websites should remain operational only if “is necessary to avoid significant damage to the execution of authorized or excepted activities,” which suggests that many of the NASA websites could go offline or not be updated during a shutdown. It’s also unclear how a shutdown would affect NASA’s Asteroid Initiative Idea Synthesis Workshop, scheduled to begin Monday the 30th and run through Wednesday the 2nd; while run by NASA, it is being held at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, and not on the NASA JSC campus.