Federal Relations

April 10, 2017

Two Weeks of Recess

As Congress begins a two-week recess for Easter and Passover, the countdown clock begins toward a potential government shutdown.

Lawmakers left town last Friday insisting there would be no government shutdown when the current stopgap measure funding the government expires on April 28. For several weeks, House and Senate appropriators have been slowly negotiating a catchall  or omnibus spending package to complete FY2017, and have been making headway. That said, obstacles remain.  

One primary obstacle is when Congress reconvenes in the final week of April, there will be only four legislative days left when both chambers are in session to get a catchall bill introduced and enacted. While its is certainly something that Congress can achieve, the timeframe leaves little room for error. 

A second major obstacle is that negotiators have yet to definitively resolve how – or whether – to accommodate President Donald Trump’s 11th-hour request for an extra $33 billion in military and border security money. While the proposal is a nonstarter with most Democrats, how to handle the border wall request in the supplemental is causing internal Republican concerns. In March, Trump has requested an extra $3 billion for enhanced border security, including about $1 billion that would be used as a down payment toward a wall. The Administration also wants to give the military a $30 billion boost for the current FY 2017, which would be offset by cuts to domestic spending. However, to do so so would require renegotiating the overall defense spending level permitted under a two-year bipartisan budget deal, which pushed off the sequester caps for two years. To change those caps would certainly require a bipartisan deal. How or how much Congress addresses the supplemental request remains to be seen.

If negotiations stall, a fallback option would be to pass another CR that would simply extend current funding levels for several more weeks or months. That option, however, riles defense hawks because it would leave the military unable to start new programs and gives pause to Democrats, who are concerned about the tremendous latitude given to spending and programs given to the Administration during a CR.

 

Stay tuned.