Scenarios: What could happen in budget fight

By Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama and leaders in the Congress are racing against a midnight Friday deadline to reach a deal on government spending for the rest of this fiscal year, which ends on September 30.

Here are some scenarios on what could happen in the next several days.

A DEAL IS REACHED

Obama, House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, agree on the level of additional spending cuts. Proposed Republican restrictions on funding for family planning, including abortion in the District of Columbia, and the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate air pollution also are hurdles to a final deal.

Republican and Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives and Senate would then have to sell the deal to their rank-and-file members, most likely in closed-door meetings. If there is sufficient support for the deal, a bill will be drawn up and sent to the two chambers for a vote.

TIMING OF VOTES ON DEAL

Scheduling a vote would depend on whether the House follows normal procedure. If it does, the earliest a vote could come might be early next week. Under House rules, bills have to be publicly posted for 72 hours before they are debated on the House floor.

If Boehner arranged to waive the rules, he could bring the measure up for a vote as soon as the legislation is written and reviewed by the House Rules Committee.

In the Senate, Reid would work to get the bill through the chamber as quickly as possible and avoid any “filibuster” that allows opponents to hold up the legislation with prolonged debate.

There is a possibility that the Senate could vote first on the bill, rather than wait for the House to complete its work. Once both chambers have voted, the bill will be sent to Obama to be signed into law.

DEALING WITH A GAP

If there is a deal and Congress does not have time before midnight Friday to write the legislation and pass it, the House and Senate could pass a stopgap spending measure to keep the government running until the budget bill becomes law.

House Republicans on Thursday were working to pass a one-week spending bill to allow negotiations to continue. But with $12 billion in spending cuts, Obama says he’ll veto it.

Democrats are pushing for a stopgap bill with no policy restrictions or spending cuts.

FAILURE

If a deal cannot be reached, the federal government would partially shut down on Saturday. Hundreds of thousands of government workers across the United States will be identified as either essential or nonessential. Nonessential workers will be furloughed while essential employees will continue working.

Some government services would be unaffected by the shutdown, including the military, border patrol, air traffic controllers and federal criminal investigators.

Fifteen years ago, when the last shutdown occurred, the government was partially closed for a record 21 days. Government employees were reimbursed for their lost wages.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Bill Trott)

Scenarios: What could happen in budget fight