Congress and the White House now have just days remaining to continue federal agency spending authority beyond the expiration December 8 of a temporary funding measure, with both parties already raising the prospects of a partial government shutdown and asserting that the other will be to blame if it happens.
Basic differences over policy matters that have been the theme of the legislative year largely remain unsettled, with health care policy and immigration policy among the most divisive. However, most of the attention of Congress as the deadline approaches has been focused on Republican proposals for changes in tax policy.
Apart from policy issues is the question of overall funding to be available. Leaders have raised the prospects of raising the limits set in an earlier agreement for defense spending on one side and non-defense spending on the other, but substantial differences remain. In general, Democrats are seeking equal boosts for both, while Republicans want more for defense. A DoD budget measure that is awaiting President Trump’s signature would require an even greater increase on the defense side.
Several options common to such situations remain on the table. One would be to wrap funding for the remainder of the fiscal year ending next September into a catchall bill. Another would be to extend agency spending at current levels for a month or more to buy more time to reach such an agreement.
A potential interim step would be a short-term extension of current spending authority for at least another week and possibly two while discussions toward either of those ends continue. Congress has scheduled to recess for the year December 15 but it always can change its own schedule.