Looking into the Antideficiency Act

October 18, 2013

Ever wonder who determines which government functions are discontinued when the determination to shut down is made? Why, for instance, are we still sending foreign aid to countries with whom we are at war, while daily denying death benefits to families of our own fallen military personnel; and why are the cadets at our military academies not allowed to check books out of the academy library, but billions of U.S. dollars continue to flow to the United Nations?

The Antideficiency Act, Public Law 97-258, prohibits the federal government from entering into a contract that is not "fully funded" because doing so would obligate the government in the absence of an appropriation adequate to the needs of the contract.

Each year since 1978 there have been 12 authorization bills and 12 appropriation bills to accomplish funding of federal government activities. The budget submission for 2014 included a 13th set of authorization and appropriation bills to accommodate a new function involving approximately one-eighth of the total US budget.

When the budget for FY 2014 was not approved by both houses of congress and signed by a president Oct. 1, those functions not excepted by the contingency plans implementing The Antideficiency Act were immediately shut down.

So who determined which of the functions would be given up during this shutdown? How were the sacrificed functions selected?

On Sept. 17, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, an administration entity, called for updates to each federal agency's contingency plan designating excepted agency operations, for compliance with the Antideficiency Act. Thus it was the administration that ordered preparation of and issued guidelines for the current contingency plans identifying the excepted and non-excepted government operations.

The department heads, all appointed by the chief executive, approved the selections and the plans. It would be redundant to suggest that politics played a part in the activity and item selections. The department secretaries and the assistants, deputy assistants, and under secretaries are all appointed positions, that is political appointments. This is how each president maintains control and implements his own policies.

A review of the congress' activities from late September to date shows numerous attempts by the House to offer budgets supporting nearly everything requested by the administration with the exception of the Affordable Care Act. The Supreme Court has stripped away the health mask by identifying the act as a tax; more about the confiscation of money from taxpayers than the provision of health care.

The House, each member responsible to and acting at the instructions of his/her constituents, has rejected the unwarranted "Affordable Care" tax each time the Senate has recently attempted to gain authorization and funding. The majority of the people do not want it, but the current White House occupant has declared that he will veto any funding submission that does not support the Affordable Care Act.

Plainly, the fact that we do not have a budget and are in a shutdown status is the result of the inability of the White House occupant and this Senate to sell the "Affordable Care Act" to the American people; and their unwillingness to subject the act to the scrutiny afforded by a one year delay. Not authorizing and funding "Affordable Care" in this fiscal year is the proper response by the House.

If the White House occupant chooses to close the government and elects to inflict pain on specific American citizens as punishment for his personal disappointment; and if Senate democrats continue to demand increased taxes as payback for any concession to the GOP including reopening the government; that is the way the law is written. Actions have consequences. The particularly mean-spirited acts and statements of this administration will be long remembered.

Carl R. Smink

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