The Learning Curve

New tricks for an old dog.

The Antideficiency Act of 1982

There is law that prohibits Federal expenditures not authorized by Congress. It is the Anti-Deficiency Act, Public Law  97-258. This is the law which results in the suspension of government functions when Congress can’t agree on a budget, as happened during the Clinton administration in 1995 and 1996. The language of the Anti-Deficiency Act would not apply as a result of reaching the debt ceiling, even though the government might be shut down due to lack of cash. Nevertheless, the guidelines for essential services may be of value in prioritizing expenditures from available cash flow.

Geeky legal stuff.

According to these federal guidelines agencies should continue activities that:

1.) Provide for the national security, including the conduct of foreign relations essential to the national security or the safety of life and property.

2.) Provide for benefit payments and the performance of contract obligations under no-year or multi-year or other funds remaining available for those purposes.

3.) Conduct essential activities to the extent that they protect life and property, including:

  • Medical care of inpatients and emergency outpatient care.
  • Activities essential to ensure continued public health and safety, including safe use of food and drugs and safe use of hazardous materials.
  • The continuance of air traffic control and other transportation safety functions and the protection of transport property.
  • Border and coastal protection and surveillance.
  • Protection of Federal lands, buildings, waterways, equipment and other property owned by the United States.
  • Care of prisoners and other persons in the custody of the United States.
  • Law enforcement and criminal investigations.
  • Emergency and disaster assistance.
  • Activities essential to the preservation of the essential elements of the money and banking system of the United States, including borrowing and tax collection activities of the Treasury.
  • Activities that ensure production of power and maintenance of the power distribution system.
  • Activities necessary to maintain protection of research property.

This type of government shutdown happens when there is a budget appropriations impasse for political reasons. The guidelines for what to shut down and what essential governmental services continue is based on the assumption that funds are actually available to pay for those services. The Antideficiency Act prohibits the Federal government from entering into a contract for which the funds have not been appropriated, or not “fully funded” in a legal sense. Doing so would obligate the government in the absence of an appropriation adequate to the needs of the contract. The law does not address the situation in which appropriations have been enacted, but without enough cash in the checking account to pay the bills. Codified at 31 U.S.C. § 1341.


Written by Tom Fox

07/26/2011 at 12:06 am

Posted in Legal, Politics

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