Congress has approved a spending bill that would fund the government through the rest of the fiscal year, and effectively avoid a federal shutdown. The stopgap spending measure allows some federal agencies more flexibility in handling the across-the-board spending cuts, known as the sequester, which went into effect at the beginning of the month. The Defense Department has already announced that it could make a difference for its civilian employees in 2013. David Hawkings, political columnist at Hawkings Here for CQ Roll Call, joins WAMU 88.5's Matt McCleskey to talk about the details.
On how the stopgap spending bill will change the way the Pentagon deals with the sequester cuts: "The Pentagon said it was going to put on hold for at least a few days the sending out of the furlough notices to some 800,000 civilian workers. They're not calling off the furloughs. They are not going to be able to call off the furloughs. While this bill gives the Pentagon and government agencies some flexibility to play with their cut, they still have to come up with $46 billion to cut. So the Pentagon has to figure out how to do that. It seems that some civilian furloughs will be part of that, but instead the 22 days they've been talking about, maybe it'll be a few days fewer."
On Sen. Mark Warner's optimism about reaching a bipartisan solution to reducing the federal deficit: "It's interesting that Sen. Warner, who had been pretty pessimistic for quite a while, now puts it at 50-50. Important to note that another member of Sen. Warner's negotiating team on the Democratic side, Dick Durban, the number two in the Democratic senate leadership, put it a day before at a little less than 50-50, so you can see the glass half-full or half-empty. Sen. Warner is part of a group of eight — four Democrats, four Republicans — who have been having these backchannel talks for months. He says he has some new ideas... he's not revealing what they are."
In regards to grand bargaining, on why there is reason to believe that we're in a better position now than in the past couple of years: "One reason is that we're in this period where we're not up against a hard deadline. We've finally put to bed last year's budget yesterday... today the Senate is going to adopt a budget for this year... And then there's this period between now and the end of the summer where there won't be any of these shutdown drama deadlines. And the idea is that that will open up a period will they can have some serious talks."