April 21, 2017

By: Carten Cordell

While Mick Mulvaney may not be betting on a government shutdown, he’s not taking any chances either.

The Office of Management and Budget director sent a memo to federal agencies on April 21, authorizing them to make preparations in case Congress can’t come to a budget compromise before funding runs out on April 28.

“While we do not expect a lapse, prudence and common sense require routine assessments to be made,” Mulvaney said in a statement to the agencies.

Eric Katz of Government Executive first reported that Mulvaney had told agencies to prepare for a potential lapse in appropriations, though noting that the move was a precautionary measure required OMB policy.

“The Administration strongly believes a lapse should not – and will not — occur. However, prudent management requires that agencies be prepared for the possibility of a lapse,” the memo said.

OMB began what it calls “pre-appropriation-lapse calls” in 2013, notifying agencies to begin making shutdown plans a week out from the funding lapse.

The agency noted that this would be the third preparation call of fiscal 2017, with the previous two happening in the waning days of the Obama administration.

While Republicans control the White House and both chambers of Congress, there is a fear that a single funding issue in the budget — also known as poison-pill riders — could grind budget negotiations to a halt before a continuing resolution can be passed.

While it’s difficult to project, most recent potential poison-pill riders could be the White House’s request for additional funding for the Department of Defense and the President Trump-proposed border wall with Mexico.

Mulvaney said on March 16 that OMB would request an additional $30 billion for DoD and DHS, including $1.5 billion in funding for early planning stages for the border wall.

If Democrats fight those measures or negotiations fail to secure Freedom Caucus support, the likelihood of a shutdown rises.

“If I were a betting man, I would want to cover every conceivable bet,” said Don Kettl, a professor at the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, in a March 31 interview.

“It would be hard to even try to figure out what the spread ought to be.”

The Washington Post ranked the odds of a shutdown 50/50 on April 21.