Federal Government Reopens, Negotiations Continue

After a dramatic weekend shutdown, Congress on Monday evening approved a three-week continuing resolution that ended the shutdown and reopened the government on Tuesday.

Though Congress was able to work through the immediate issue of a shutdown, the underlying policy issues that led to the shutdown still have not been resolved.

The CR is identical to one approved by the House last week prior to the shutdown aside from a revised expiration date of Thursday, February 8. The Senate approved the CR by a vote of 81-18 and the House by 266-150. The President signed it into law quickly after its passage, clearing the way for the government to reopen the following day.

The CR was passed with the understanding that the Senate will consider immigration legislation prior to its expiration.

In addition to negotiations over immigration, a deal still needs to be struck to set the spending limits for the current fiscal year. While Congress did approve a budget resolution for FY 2018, the budget was used as a vehicle for tax reform rather than a traditional guide for spending.

Defense hawks have pushed for a massive increase in defense spending at the expense of non-defense programs, but Democrats and deficit hawks have opposed such a plan. The Budget Control Act of 2011 requires that any increases in defense spending be met equally with non-defense spending increases. A compromise will need to be struck on the spending limits before final spending decisions can be made.

If a deal is not reached and Congress chooses to fund the government through a full-year continuing resolution, a small cut of approximately 0.67 percent will be required as the spending cap for FY 2018 is slightly lower than the appropriated levels for FY 2017.

Though a shutdown, particularly a short one, doesn't necessarily impact planners immediately, funding the government through a series of CRs and short-term spending bills has a huge impact on communities. Programs like the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program and HOME don't distribute grant dollars until a full-year bill is in place. Last year, full-year funding was not determined until May.

With only three weeks to make major policy decisions, Congress will need to act quickly to avoid another government shutdown when the current CR expires on February 8, 2018.

Top image: Visitors to Joshua Tree National Park in California at the closed entrance station on day one of the 2018 government shutdown. Photo by National Parks Conservation Association (CC BY-ND 2.0).

About the Author
Tess Hembree is policy manager at Advocacy Associates.

January 25, 2018

By Tess Hembree