Fedweek

With a new deadline to fund agencies and prevent a partial government shutdown now only four weeks away, the Senate has started moving toward passing appropriations bills.

The current temporary funding authority, reached shortly before fiscal year 2020 started October 1, runs out November 21. Since that measure’s passage, there has been no movement on the 12 regular appropriations bills as attention of Congress has focused on other matters.

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The House passed 10 of those bills in the summer but neither of the other two since, and the Senate has passed none. That has caused rising concerns about another showdown of the sort that caused the month-long partial shutdown over December-January. Many of the same issues that have annually bogged down the budget process in recent years remain unresolved, with the impeachment inquiry now thrown into the mix.

The Senate’s first attention likely will be on the two bundles of several bills the House passed, neither of which includes the key measure for federal employees, the general government measure. That bill (HR-3351) would provide an average 3.1 percent raise in January with a locality component, while a counterpart bill passed by a Senate committee (S-2524) is silent, effectively endorsing the 2.6 percent across the board raise that the administration now favors after dropping an initial call for a freeze.

The two bills also differ on several key policy matters, including language in the House version, but not the Senate version, to stop any further breakup of OPM and to prevent agencies from unilaterally imposing personnel policies on subjects that previously were negotiated.

Such disagreements have raised the prospect of another temporary funding extension being needed, likely into early or mid-December. That has been a common practice in recent years, with a final agreement often being reached shortly before year’s end—with last year’s deadlock leading to the partial shutdown being the notable exception.