Updated: Senate failes to pass funding extension. Congress had until midnight Friday (January 19) to head off, for what would be the fourth time in the current fiscal year, a partial government shutdown in the absence of regular agency funding authority.
A last ditch vote Friday night to approve an extension through Feburary 16 failed to garner the necessary 60 votes for passage, putting the government on an almost certain path toward another shutdown – last seen in 2013 when the government shutdown for 16 days as Republicans attempted to hollow out the Affordable Care Act.
As was the case ahead of the prior deadlines, a temporary extension of current funding was on the table; each time so far such extensions were passed just in time to prevent a partial shutdown.
The very repetitiveness of the situation had caused a higher level of concern this time that the threat will become reality and it appears to be more or less certain at this point.
House lawmakers, however, were told to remain in DC over the weekend, and while Senators began leaving the Capitol before midnight, it’s possible a deal gets done over the weekend despite a significant headwind. OMB director Mick Mulvaney suggested as much on Friday, claiming agencies would be open on Monday.
Rules on Government Furloughs [ ask.FEDweek.com ]
Still, it remains to be seen whether there’s an appetite for an even shorter-term funding measure to buy more time to work out a budget deal, something one lawmaker called absurd, and little resolution to several sticking points.
Many members of Congress say they are weary of enacting temporary funding time after time on the prospect that an agreement will be reached soon, only to be back in the same situation at the end of each. An actual shutdown could be used to force a resolution, with each party already having prepared an argument that it would be the other’s fault.
The underlying issues have remained much the same since the fiscal year began October 1 with no regular appropriations bills having been passed: health care, immigration, disaster relief and general spending levels.
On immigration, especially, there is a desire to reach a solution because of a pending deadline in March to reauthorize or revise the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program – however, that issue if anything has turned more contentious, not less, following a widely reported, heated White House meeting on immigration.
Spending caps could trigger “sequestration”
Also remaining contentious are the overall spending levels set in a prior agreement. New caps for covering two years are under discussion, but there is disagreement over whether the defense side should increase by more than the non-defense side. Unless those caps are increased, spending levels currently being planned could trigger “sequestration” of the sort that occurred in 2013 and that resulted in widespread unpaid furloughs and disruptions of government programs.
A partial government shutdown similarly would trigger furloughs and disruptions. However, while employees furloughed due to sequestration were not later paid, employees furloughed due to partial shutdowns always have been paid as if they had worked (that must be approved each time, though). Employees kept on the job in a shutdown are guaranteed to be paid—although exactly when would depend on how long the shutdown lasted and the agency’s pay cycle.
Federal employee pay and benefits could be in cross hairs
Also still on the table is whether increases in spending levels should be offset with reductions elsewhere, and if so where. That has raised concern that a push for offsets would turn to federal employee compensation, for example with a bid to require higher contributions toward retirement benefits.