Fedweek

Brinksmanship again threatening shutdown: Even in the best case scenario, a temporary extension of funding will be needed for most federal agencies.

With just two weeks until current agency funding authority expires on November 21, little progress has been made toward enacting year-long, or even temporary, funding and meanwhile threats of another partial government shutdown are being sounded.

In a pattern that now is all-too-familiar for federal employees, political leaders continue to engage in brinksmanship over various policy and spending differences, with border security once again at the center.

The Senate last week passed a package of four appropriations bills its first action on any of the 12 bills needed for the budget year now more than a month old. However, an attempt to pass a second package that included the bill funding DoD hit a roadblock over the issue of using money in that bill for border wall construction, ending what little momentum had been building. The White House has refused to rule out triggering another shutdown over that issue.

Even in the best case scenario, a temporary extension of funding will be needed for most federal agencies, given the number of measures still pending resolution—eight in the Senate and two in the House—and the need to work out numerous differences in those measures.

The most common course in this situation is to enact another temporary extension into mid-December with hopes that the approach of the holidays will produce enough incentive to finish the work. However, that did not succeed last year, leading to the month-long partial shutdown stretching into late January.

As an alternative, possibilities have been raised of a temporary extension into February or March—or even potentially through next September. Since extensions generally continue funding at current levels, that would effectively be a cut in many programs. And any extension beyond year’s end that does not specify a federal raise for January would trigger a 2.6 percent across the board raise by default, undercutting the effort to provide a 3.1 percent average raise with variations by locality.