The House and Senate have approved an extension of temporary spending authority through December 18 that President Trump is expected to sign, pushing off by a week a deadline to prevent a partial government shutdown while negotiations continue over spending and policy issues and further pandemic relief measures.
Short-term extensions are common in such situations and often are a sign that the parties see a path to a final decision. However, there is no guarantee and so far no general outlines of an agreement have been made public.
Among the host of issues related to regular appropriations bills that have yet to be enacted for the budget year that started October 1 are whether federal employees will receive a pay raise in January and the status of the administration’s executive order to move large numbers of employees involved with policy-related matters into a new excepted service Schedule F – stripping them of civil service job protections such as appeal and union representation rights.
On the former issue, the White House recently endorsed Senate language calling for a pay freeze, in contrast to the 1 percent raise it originally proposed and which the House effectively endorsed. On the latter, pressure is building from employee organizations, good government groups and some members of Congress to effectively suspend the order by including language to prevent agencies from spending any money to carry it out—language that could spur the administration to threaten a veto.
While those issues weren’t addressed in the one-week extension, they would have to be resolved in a longer-term measure—which could carry spending authority through September or possibly only for a number of months, potentially into March.
Pressure also is building for a new pandemic relief package, given the national trends in infections and deaths and the scheduled end of some economic benefits approved previously.
Since the last of those packages was enacted in the spring, the House has voted several times for new provisions including some that would benefit federal employees, especially those in front-line positions. However, details of any new package are still coming into focus.