President Trump has quickly signed a temporary spending bill that averts a partial government shutdown that was set to kick off midnight November 21. This sets up another deadline of December 20th to approve agency funding going forward and keeps the risk of a shutdown alive well into the holidays.
The bill generally continues funding at current levels—that is, levels of fiscal year 2019 which ended September 30. As with the first extension, there are some exceptions, mainly involving Medicare and other health care related issues. The new extension further adds funding needed for the buildup toward the 2020 census as well as a guarantee that military personnel will receive a 3.1 percent raise in January.
The measure says nothing about a federal employee raise, but by buying more time—effectively three weeks, since Congress is to be in recess next week—leaders hope to enact at least some of the regular appropriations bills for this fiscal year. That could include the general government bill, which will essentially decide whether to grant a 3.1 percent increase with some variation by locality as the House has endorsed, or the 2.6 percent raise with no variation as the White House favors and the Senate effectively has endorsed.
The December 20 date — the goal for Congress to end its working year — was chosen over alternatives for longer extensions of current funding possibly into February or March or even for the entirety of the current fiscal year.
Chances of enacting all of the dozen spending bills even by that date are questionable, however, given the numerous differences between the White House, the House and the Senate over funding and policy issues, in particular border security matters (like last year, Trump is demanding $5 billion for a border wall).
That could put a longer temporary extension back on the table, at least for those agencies whose regular funding bills haven’t been enacted by then.
See also, Rules on Government Furloughs at ask.FEDweek.com