Longest Government Shutdown in History Continues, No Immediate End in Sight
January 24, 2019
As the partial government shutdown carried on into its fifth week, spending talks between President Trump and congressional Democrats remain deadlocked. Earlier this week, the budget impasse appeared to hit a new low as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and the president publicly squabbled over whether the annual State of the Union address would be delivered on January 29. After the speaker indicated that the House would not take up a resolution allowing Trump to address a joint session of Congress, the president ultimately relented and agreed to postpone his speech until the shutdown is over.
In the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has scheduled votes on two competing proposals to reopen the government. The first bill, a GOP-sponsored measure, would fund the seven unfinished spending bills for fiscal year 2019, while also providing $5.7 billion for President Trump’s proposed border wall. The package also includes $12.7 billion in disaster aid to states that were impacted by recent major disasters, including California.
In addition, the legislation would temporarily delay the deportation of young undocumented immigrants who are enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Incidentally, President Trump recently offered a temporary DACA “fix” in exchange for $5.7 billion in funding for a border wall. Finally, the Republican package would extend several expired programs, including the Violence Against Women Act and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF/CalWORKS) program.
The second bill to be considered in the upper chamber, a Democratic proposal, mirrors House-passed legislation (HR 268) that would reopen the government through February 8. The intent of the short-term spending measure is to give members of Congress additional time to work out a broader funding agreement for fiscal year 2019 while also providing federal employees with back pay. While several Republican senators have indicated that they will support the bill, it will likely fall short of the requisite 60 votes. Complicating matters further, the White House has a standing veto threat for any spending package that does not include additional funding for a barrier along the southern border.
Across Capitol Hill, House Democratic leaders have scheduled votes on two measures to reopen the government. The chamber is likely to advance a six-bill appropriations package (HR 648) using funding levels agreed to by House and Senate negotiators just prior to the shutdown. The legislation also includes a number of program extensions, including TANF and the National Flood Insurance Program.
HR 648 will likely garner some degree of bipartisan support, particularly among those members that were involved in year-end spending talks. However, the bill does not provide funding for the Department of Homeland Security or the border wall, so the measure is likely dead on arrival in the Senate. Should Congress and the Trump administration ultimately come to an agreement on border security, this particular legislative package could serve as the starting point for negotiations to reopen the government.
In addition to HR 648, the House is set to approve a separate stopgap funding measure (HJ Res 31) that would reopen DHS through February 28. According to House Democrats, the short-term bill would buy time for congressional Democrats and President Trump to negotiate a deal on border security. In preparation for such talks, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) has indicated that Democrats will send a plan to the White House later this week outlining their proposal to protect the southern border. Rather than provide funding for a new border wall, the plan would direct federal resources toward infrastructure, technology, additional border agents and immigration judges, as well as aid to Central American countries.
It should be noted that none of the aforementioned pieces of legislation are expected to be finalized by Congress, let alone signed into law by President Trump. Accordingly, the partial shutdown will continue until a viable compromise has been reached.
TANF Extension Finalized by Both Chambers
This week, the Senate approved legislation (HR 430) that would extend the TANF/CalWORKS program through June 30, 2019. The bill enables the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to distribute second quarter TANF payments to states.
The legislation also authorizes HHS to distribute mandatory child care funding (Child Care Entitlement to States), which has been delayed. The measure, which was adopted by the House last week, is now awaiting the president’s signature. Once enacted, HHS officials have advised Congress that it will take four business days for TANF payments to be disbursed.