Pay Raise, Shutdown Issues Still to Be Decided

With only two working weeks left after this week until the expiration of a temporary government funding measure, Congress has made little progress toward preventing a partial shutdown or toward resolving other issues tied to the budget.

Legislators have been mainly focused on changes to tax policy even while a measure that continued agency funding authority in the absence of regular appropriations bills is to expire December 8. In order to prevent a partial government shutdown, Congress would have to agree on one of several options–a full-year budget in one or more bills, a temporary extension of current authority possibly into early 2018, or one or more shorter extensions to buy more time to decide.

Congressional Republican leaders say they are aiming for a full-year measure, while conceding that temporary extensions farther into December may be needed first. Congress is set to recess for the year December 15 but could extend that, although likely not more than another week. Meanwhile, Democrats have said they see chances of a shutdown due to disagreements over issues including immigration and health care.

A measure setting a budget for the remainder of the current fiscal year would be the last opportunity for Congress to set a January federal pay raise other than the 1.9 percent default figure that has been in progress all year. Pushing a decision into 2018 without addressing the raise would allow that amount to be paid by default.