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U.S. federal government again faces looming shutdown


09:31, December 15, 2011

WASHINGTON, Dec. 14 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. federal government is again facing a looming shutdown by the end of this week, and agencies and departments are making contingency plans on Wednesday.

According to Kenneth Baer, spokesman for the Office of Management and Budget, federal agencies and departments are sending emails Wednesday to employees to notify them the next step should that comes to pass.

"In case Congress does not act, we are taking the steps necessary to be prepared if a lapse in funding should occur. That is why agencies are sending emails to their employees this afternoon to alert them to this possibility and how it would affect them," said Baer in a statement.

The Congress has passed two short-term funding measures to keep the government's doors open since the beginning of this fiscal year on Oct. 1, and the most recent of the stopgap continuing resolutions is set to expire Friday night.

The issue didn't come up until Thursday, as there was a tentative deal between the two parties on the House Appropriations Committee, according to Republicans. But reports indicated President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid agreed to tie the Omnibus appropriations bill to an agreement on extending the payroll tax holiday, instructing Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee to withhold their signatures unless the stalemate over payroll tax holiday is broken.

The Democrats want to extend the payroll tax holiday for another year, which would benefit the middle class. They also want to pay for it with a sur-tax for millionaires, which was opposed by Republicans. Democrats fear the Republicans would adjourn the House and leave for holidays once the Omnibus appropriations bill is passed, leaving them without a deal for the payroll tax holiday extension before the year-end, when that tax cut expires.

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