143-year-old law has lawmakers treading gingerly during shutdown

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Quigley_Sharps, Oct 2, 2013.

  1. Quigley_Sharps

    Quigley_Sharps The Badministrator Administrator Founding Member

    Lawmakers feel fenced in by an 1870 law.
    Administration officials now live in fear of a 19th-century law that could get them fired, penalized or even imprisoned if they make the wrong choices while the government is shut down.

    The law is the Antideficiency Act, passed by Congress in 1870 (and amended several times), which prohibits the government from incurring any monetary obligation for which Congress has not appropriated funds.

    In shutting down the government, most memos cite the law as the reason. The Government Accountability Office says employees who violate the Antideficiency Act may be subject to disciplinary action, suspension and even "fines, imprisonment, or both."

    CNBC has learned that in several executive branch departments, high-level staff members review individual decisions about what government activities to allow for fear of running afoul of the Antideficiency Act. One White House official said he has advised his employees not to check their email or cellphones. Under the act, even volunteering for government service is expressly prohibited.

    In a memo to his department employees today, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew cited the law as the reason for reduced staffing.

    "For the duration of this impasse, as required by the Antideficiency Act and directed by OMB, the Department will be required to operate with only the minimal staffing level necessary to execute only certain legally exempted activities," Lew wrote.

    The only exemptions to the shutdown concern "emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property," according to government documents. That has meant airports and the Postal Service are open, Social Security checks get paid and federal prisons and courts will operate as normal as do most national security functions including the military and the Central Intelligence Agency. But national parks and museums are closed along with big parts of the departments of Education and Commerce

    Congress passed the law as part of a struggle—dating back to the nation's founding—for control over the power of the purse. Some presidents, such as Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War, would incur obligations for which Congress had to appropriate funds after the fact.

    What is ironic is that Congress in shutting down the government has to at least to some extent given up the power of the purse to the executive branch. Under the broad guidelines of what constitutes an emergency or threat to life or property, OMB now more or less decides what gets funded and what doesn't. But that latitude is limited by the fear of officials that, sometime after the event, a given decision is found to have been in violation of the Antideficiency Act.

    By CNBC's Steve Liesman.
  2. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of Folks.... "Be wery, werey, Carwful... cause We are Watching" (Elmer Fudd voice)....
    Silversnake and Yard Dart like this.
  3. DarkLight

    DarkLight Live Long and Prosper - On Hiatus

    The pathetic thing about all of that is that all they have to do is "appropriate" funds, REGARDLESS OF THE FUNDS EXISTENCE! We haven't had a budget presented in 5, going on 6 years but these dunderheads keep appropriating funds for this, that and the other thing and extending the amount of debt that we as a country can be in! It's...it's...I would say Monty Python's Flying Circus but unfortunately this makes LESS sense and isn't funny in the slightest.
    kellory and Tracy like this.
  4. fmhuff

    fmhuff Monkey+++

    I dunno, Just look how they respect and follow the "Bill of Rights."
  5. DarkLight

    DarkLight Live Long and Prosper - On Hiatus

    It's all theater, pure and simple. If there was a law about eating ice cream every other Thursday in the lobby of the Capital building while blindfolded in the colors of the opposition party, and they could use it to their advantage, THEY WOULD! This means NOTHING. Not one, single, solitary thing will change...even if they "defund" the Affordable Care Act. Career politicians from parties that may or may not be diametrically opposed to each other philosophically who care for absolutely nothing other than furthering themselves (whether it be their career, name or future book sales) are DESTROYING THIS COUNTRY! And we're helping!

    They pass laws that apply to everyone but them, they have the ability to grant themselves raises FAR in excess of that required for inflation, permit unspeakably lavish perks to be granted to themselves and have the unmitigated GALL to shut down MY GOVERNMENT because the Senate (the ONLY part of the legislative branch, nay, GOVERNMENT who can even legally propose a budget) is incapable of doing one of the single most important things they've been tasked with.

    I would be a pauper on the street or in jail if I ran my life, budget and finances the way we allow Washington DC to operate. It makes me want to PUKE!
    tacmotusn, franks71vw and kellory like this.
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