POLITICS

Are we headed for a shutdown?

NOTE: This article first appeared on FCW.com.

A government shutdown come Dec. 8 appears more likely, thanks to an apparent standoff between President Donald Trump and Democratic leaders whose votes are needed in Congress to pass an appropriation.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) pulled out of a scheduled budget meeting with Trump and GOP congressional leaders on Nov. 28, after the president tweeted that "'Chuck and Nancy' … want illegal immigrants flooding into our Country unchecked, are weak on Crime and want to substantially RAISE Taxes. I don’t see a deal!"

Schumer and Pelosi put out a joint statement seeking a meeting with their Republican counterparts Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)

"We don't have any time to waste in addressing the issues that confront us, so we're going to continue to negotiate with Republican leaders who may be interested in reaching a bipartisan agreement," they said.

After meeting with GOP Hill leaders, Trump said he "would absolutely blame the Democrats" if a shutdown occurs.

Congress and the president must arrive at a deal to pass 2018 appropriations bills or extend the current continuing resolution by Dec. 8, when the current funding bill expires, or else face a partial government shutdown.

Agencies may soon be asked to update their shutdown guidance -- by law the Office of Management and Budget puts out a call for updates seven days before a scheduled lapse in appropriations. Most plans haven't been updated since Sept. 2015.

On the Sunday political talk shows at the end of Thanksgiving weekend, many in Congress still sounded hopeful about tackling a busy legislative agenda.

"There shouldn't be any discussion about shutting down the government. We can make this thing work. We just need to get people at the table to negotiate it," said third-ranking Senate Republican John Thune (R-S.D.) on the Nov. 26 broadcast of Fox News Sunday. Thune held out the possibility of a short-term extension to allow for negotiations to take place.

In addition to the appropriations bill, Hill Republicans are looking to tackle major tax legislation that would overhaul current tax law, delivering cuts in corporate tax rates and eliminating many deductions on individuals and families. Democrats are opposing the measure, and many Republicans still have questions and are withholding support.

Congress is also considering a $44 billion disaster assistance proposal from the Trump administration to cover ongoing storm recovery operations in Puerto Rico, Texas, Florida, the U.S. Virgin Islands and other areas ravaged by an unusually destructive hurricane season. Many Democrats say the proposal is too low.

Some issues are still lingering from the end of fiscal year 2017, including reauthorization of the Children's Health Insurance Program. Many on both sides of the aisle are hoping for a legal fix for immigrants in the U.S. under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program. Some of the government's surveillance authorities under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act are set to expire at the end of the year, and many in Congress are hoping to introduce new checks on what kinds of communications spy agencies can collect without a warrant. The National Flood Insurance Program also is facing a Dec. 8 expiration deadline.

In addition to that, Congress must find a legislative path around the spending caps in the Budget Control Act if the recently passed National Defense Authorization Act is going to be fully funded. Otherwise, the $700 billion proposal, which included just over $634 billion subject to spending caps, will be subject to automatic cuts to the $549 billion level in the BCA.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) warned in a Nov. 16 statement that the committee "would be hard-pressed to write a 2018 defense bill that fully meets our national security needs or reflects the priorities of the Senate" under current budget caps.

At least one lawmaker, however, is warming to the challenge.

"Let's take care of a lot of problems at one time to show the country we actually can function. I'm rather excited about the possibilities of legislating in December," said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on CNN's State of the Union show.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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