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All About the Spending

The possibility of another government shutdown is looming in the US, the New York Times reports.

Congress has returned from its summer break and has about a dozen workdays to come up with a bipartisan plan to keep the government open for business, it adds. But because of clashes over both foreign and domestic policy, Forbes' Stan Collender puts the odds of a shutdown at 67 percent. "In other words, with about three weeks to go before the federal fiscal year turns into a budget pumpkin at midnight on September 30, there's now a two-thirds chance of a shutdown," he says.

The Times notes that Congress has two options to keep the government funded past the end-of-the-month deadline: to come to an agreement to lift the sequester-mandated spending caps or to pass a continuing resolution to buy more time.

Many Republicans are in favor of lifting the spending caps on defense, though Democrats say they won't agree to that unless the caps on domestic programs are also removed, it adds, and President Obama has said he'll veto any spending bill that does not remove the domestic spending caps.

NPR says a continuing resolution is more likely to be approved in time than a full-fledged spending bill. This, Emily Holubowich, executive director of the Coalition for Health Funding, says, can be good or bad, depending on the agency and its particular prospects under a new spending bill. "If you're [the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality], flat funding is better than zero," she tells NPR. "But if you're [NIH], you're giving up a $1 billion increase."

This, NPR says, is pitting agencies against one another, though Holubowich's group is lobbying for health funding as a whole.

"We're no fans of that kind of rob Peter to pay Paul," adds Mary Woolley, president of the advocacy group Research!America. "Best case scenario, we find a way around sequestration."