For several hours yesterday the federal government was without the authority to spend money. No one seems to have noticed.
What happened was that the president did not immediately sign the contiuing resolution authorizing government spending when he received it on Wednesday evening. At midnight, the prior spending authorization expired. This created a gap for several hours over night when the government was unable to legally spend any more.
A White House spokesman confirmed that Obama signed the spending measure on Thursday morning, although he asked not to be named and wouldn’t specify what time the bill was signed, Politico reports. Weirdly enough the Library of Congress’s website claims the bill was passed by the Senate on Tuesday and signed by Obama on Wednesday.
So was this a crisis? A cover-up? Was Obama too busy hiding his birth certificate to promptly sign the spending bill? Hardly.
Lapses in spending authority of a few hours to a few days have occurred on numerous occasions in the past. Generally, the government continues to operate. Services essential to life and property are permitted to continue even in the absence of new appropriations.
The longest lapse on record is was from December 16, 1995 to January 6, 1996. According to a Congressional report, 284,000 federal employees were furloughed.