Fedweek

Although not yet even mid-month, time is already short for Congress and the White House to agree on keeping federal agencies open beyond the end of the current fiscal year September 30.

While some entire agencies, and parts of others, would not be directly impacted by a funding lapse, some 800,000 executive branch employees of about 2.1 million outside the Postal Service are in positions that would be subject to unpaid furloughs in the case of a deadlock of the sort that occurred in 2013. That time, a partial shutdown triggered by a standoff over the then-pending start of the Affordable Care Act program lasted nearly two weeks. Two brief partial shutdowns occurred earlier this year due to disagreements about border security, the same issue underlying the current threat.

As has been the pattern for many years, Congress has passed none of the 12 regular appropriations bills needed for the start of the new fiscal year, although both the House and Senate have passed some of them individually or as part of packages. One, funding energy and water programs, military construction, veterans programs, and Congress, could emerge from a conference for final floor voting at any time.

See also Rules on Federal Government Furloughs at ask.FEDweek.com

Other potential candidates for action before the end of the current fiscal year include a second combined measure, covering financial services agencies and general government matters and Interior/environmental agencies, and a separate bill covering just DoD operations. If all of those were to be passed by Congress—and signed by President Trump—before the deadline, more than half of the government would have regular funding and employees in affected agencies would be safe from a furlough threat.

However, the fate of employees subject to furloughs in other agencies would depend on whether leaders would agree to extend funding for them for a time, most likely until after the elections. That in turn would depend on political assessments that have little to do with the actual operations of the affected agencies.

After a shortened work week this week, Congress plans to be in recess next week, returning for only four days of scheduled work before the end of the month.