The "ugly" comes after sequestration

Sequestration might be the easier pill to swallow in March because solving the continuing resolution riddle might be even more painful.

The headline on the FCW.com story on our budget debacle pretty much sums it up: After the sequester: Why March 27 is even scarier.

Yep, folks, the March 1 deadline for the automatic budget cuts might be an easier pill to swallow when compared to the prospect of the entire government shutting down if a 2013 budget isn’t passed, and the continuing resolution isn’t extended.

I remember how ugly 2011 was, when the showdown over the debt ceiling resulted in the Budget Control Act, which gave birth to sequestration. But 2013 is shaping up to be even uglier.

Part of what has happened is that the traditional power players, the members of the House and Senate appropriation committees, don’t seem to have the same level of influence they once had. They have a long tradition of bipartisan cooperation, and have often crafted omnibus budget bills that get passed.

FCW’s contributing writer, Richard E. Cohen, pointed to the difficulty in getting emergency spending passed for the victims of Hurricane Sandy as further proof that routine and usually bipartisan action just isn’t routine or very bipartisan anymore.

A compromise still might happen, but it is going to be harder and, politically, more costly.

There are still a lot of questions about how deep and how quickly sequestration will hit contractors. The pullback could take weeks or months, and likely will be a form of attrition – extensions not awarded, options not exercised, awards delayed.

But the failure to at least extend the continuing resolution will have an immediate impact as the government will shut down.

In the past, this usually lasts a day or two, but this time around, who knows how long it will be? Could we see the government shut down for a week or more? What once would seem inconceivable is now at least in the realm of the possible.

With the politics being played hard, and compromise nowhere to be seen, it’s also possible that we will get only a few months reprieve on the budget, and not a deal that takes us through the end of the year.

Not a good way to run a government. Not good for the economic recovery.

It’s ugly, folks, and about to get uglier.

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