Congress has approved an extension of current agency spending authority until December 22, relieving the immediate threat of a partial government shutdown just before prior temporary measure would have expired, but creating another such threat just ahead of the holidays.
By buying two more weeks to work, leaders hope to reach either a budgetary agreement for the remainder of the current fiscal year or—potentially more likely given the significant differences that remain—an agreement for yet another extension until sometime in January or February. Apart from basic differences between the parties, there are divisions among Republicans that leave that party’s leaders in need of at least some votes from Democrats. In addition, some members of each party are digging in on certain issues of high importance to them, primarily involving health care and immigration policies.
Also needing to be addressed is whether to raise spending limits set in an earlier budget agreement—and if so, by how much and whether the defense and non-defense sides of the ledger would increase by the same amount.
The extension is the latest of a series enacted in the face of similar partial shutdown threats over the course of the year. OMB had already held the routine conference call just ahead of a potential shutdown telling agencies to review their “contingency” plans for deciding which operations to keep open in a funding lapse–and thus which employees to keep on the job and which to furlough. Most of those date to 2015, although several agencies quickly posted updated plans in response.