Budget deadlines again looming

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Remember the October budget deadlines that involved the partial shutdown of the government and the debt ceiling? Another series of similar deadlines is fast approaching. In fact, one of them is less than a month away.

Just to refresh your memory, here are the key deadlines:

Dec. 13, 2013 — The date when members of a House-Senate budget conference hope to have agreement on a long-term spending plan.

Jan. 15, 2014 — The date through which the federal government is currently funded. This was the funding that reopened the government after the 13-day partial shutdown.

Feb. 7, 2014 — Congress and the president agreed to suspend the debt ceiling through this date, averting default in October. It is widely agreed that the actual deadline is at least a month later because of the Treasury Department’s cash management techniques which it used approaching the October deadline.

Stan Collender, National Director of Financial Communications for the Qorvis consulting firm in Washington, told Bankrate in a podcast interview that even in early February the Treasury “will have probably four to six weeks at that point before the debt ceiling absolutely has to be raised.”

Is there much of a chance that the budget conferees will reach a long-term spending agreement? So, far there hasn’t been many signs of progress, including at the most recent meeting last week. Senate Budget Chairman Patty Murray, D-Wash., and her House counterpart, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., have been working privately. While both sides would like to avoid the more than $100 billion in 2014 cuts forced by the sequester, finding agreement on what to substitute is more difficult.

There’s no new pressure to come to a broader agreement. Says Collender, “if they don’t come up with an agreement by Dec. 13, nothing happens. The government doesn’t shut down the next day.” That’s why Collender, who tweets under the handle @TheBudgetGuy, is not optimistic.

As for the chance of another government shutdown, Collender puts the chances at about 1-in-3. So don’t rule it out. “The common belief is that the political baggage, the political fallout was so bad for this last shutdown that everybody, in this case mostly Republicans, will do anything possible to avoid it. That is probably right, but it is not guaranteed,” he says.

Do you think the government will come to a budget agreement before we run out of time?

Follow me on Twitter: @hamrickisms.


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Budget expert, Qorvis



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First budget deadline hits in mid-December

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