Delay in the Works on Shutdown Threat

Congress is working on a plan that would delay–although not for long–the threat of a partial government shutdown that would occur at midnight Friday (December 8) when the current stopgap funding measure runs out.

Republican leaders have drafted for voting an extension of current agency spending authority until December 22, which would relieve the immediate threat but create another one just ahead of the planned congressional recess for the holidays. By buying two more weeks to work, they hope to reach either a budgetary agreement for the remainder of the current fiscal year or an agreement for yet another extension until sometime in January or February.

The divisions over spending and policy matters that have left Congress and the White House unable to provide regular funding for the government so far this fiscal year leave uncertainty about even a two-week extension, however. Apart from basic differences between the parties, there are divisions among Republicans that could 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 current situation is the latest in a series of similar partial shutdown threats over the course of the year that have been resolved, mostly with almost no time remaining, by continuing funding at current levels for a matter of weeks or months.

This time, OMB has already held the routine conference call just ahead of a potential shutdown telling agencies to review their “contingency” plans for keeping certain operations open even in a funding lapse. Most of those date to 2015, although several agencies already have publicly posted updated plans.

Shortly before a shutdown would occur, likely meaning on Friday in this case, agencies inform employees, often by email, of their status and instruct them about carrying out “orderly shutdown procedures.” In many cases that involves telling even furloughed employees to report for work for several hours on their first scheduled workday after the shutdown, while employees in jobs excepted from the shutdown continue to work.