"Essentially, you are using a credit card. You can't do it forever, but it could keep everything going for a few weeks," Lester argues.
Lester says the other option is for federal agencies to do the exact opposite and pinch their pennies in the beginning of the year. Then if sequestration doesn't occur, they can use the funds later in the fiscal year, sparing major programs—like Medicaid, Social Security, and major chunks of the defense budget—that might have been devastated by sequestration.
Lester warns, however, the lame duck only has so much time.
"As we get further and further into January, some agencies will be more vulnerable," Lester says. "You will start to see things break down. As every day goes by, there are more cracks in the ice. If we get too far through the year, we fall through."
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Lauren Fox is a political reporter for U.S. News & World Report. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can follow her on Twitter @foxreports.