CSAC Bulletin Article

Budget Talks Fray as Threat of Federal Shutdown Looms

January 18, 2018

With a little over 24 hours to go in their race to avoid a government shutdown, GOP congressional leaders were scrambling to generate sufficient support for a new month-long spending patch.  Absent fresh budget authority, federal government operations will cease at midnight on January 19 (excluding work performed by so-called “excepted employees”).

For their part, House Republican leaders are currently in the process of whipping support for their latest proposal (HR 195), which would fund the government at current levels through February 16.  If approved, this would be the fourth Continuing Resolution (CR) since the fiscal year began on October 1.

In addition to funding federal agencies for an additional four weeks, HR 195 would reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for six years and temporarily delay the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) tax on high-cost health insurance plans.  The so-called “Cadillac Tax” is currently slated to take effect in 2020, but the bill would postpone its implementation until 2022.  Conspicuously absent from the legislation, however, is language sought by Democrats that would shield Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program recipients from the threat of deportation.

Absent a deal on DACA, House Democrats will likely be united against the GOP proposal.  As a result, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) will need to rely solely on Republican votes to advance the bill.  While Republicans hold a 238 to 193 advantage in the House, there is still some uncertainty whether various factions of the caucus will put their differences aside to support another short-term spending measure.

Further complicating matters are a series of mixed signals sent by the White House within the span of the last 24 hours.  While the administration had initially embraced the one-month CR, President Trump indicated this morning that the multi-year CHIP measure should not be conflated with the short-term budget extension.  Despite the latest hiccups in the deliberations, House GOP leaders are optimistic they will have enough votes to send the legislation to the Senate.

In the upper chamber, the immigration debate – namely disagreement whether to include the aforementioned DACA provisions in the stopgap spending measure – has the potential to derail the budget discussions.  Assuming the House approves the CR, Senate Republicans will need to secure the support of at least 10 Democrats to pass the legislation.  Republicans currently hold 51 seats in the Senate but will need 60 votes to overcome certain procedural hurdles.  For his part, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has already announced that he will oppose the CR because it does not include an increase in defense spending.

As of this writing, it remains unclear whether House and Senate Republicans will ultimately corral enough votes to avoid a government shutdown before Friday’s deadline.  What is evident, however, is that neither party wants to be blamed for such an outcome, particularly in an election year.  If HR 195 ultimately passes, it will give congressional leaders additional time to negotiate a catch-all omnibus budget deal to cover the remainder of fiscal year 2018.

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