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Congress makes deal to keep doors open until December

NOTE: This article first appeared on FCW.com.

Lawmakers have reached a deal to avoid a government shutdown as part of ongoing work to pass "minibus" packages of appropriations bills before the end of the current fiscal year on Sept. 30.

A continuing resolution to fund the government at 2018 levels through Dec. 7 was part of a package of appropriations bills covering Departments of Defense, Labor, Health and Human Services and Education that passed a joint House-Senate conference committee on Sept. 13.

The package is the second of three minibus bills moving through Congress. A $147 billion measure funding Veterans Affairs, military construction, the legislative branch, the Energy Department and the Army Corps of Engineers passed Congress Sept. 12.

Negotiations are ongoing for a third minibus deal that includes the Technology Modernization Fund – still a sticking point – and a pay raise for federal employees that President Donald Trump took steps to block in an Aug. 30 letter to congressional leaders. That minibus also includes funding for the Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Agriculture and Treasury.

Members on both sides of the aisle in both chambers applauded the agreement and indicated their desire to resolve outstanding disagreements between now and December.

The package also includes a continuing resolution to last through Dec. 7, "allowing us time to complete our work on the remaining bills, as we intend to do," said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.).

The deal tables a decision on funding of the Department of Homeland Security, including the controversial border wall, until after the midterm elections. In the past, Trump has threatened to shut down government over funding for the border wall.

Trump is expected to go along with the minibus deals. However, the president recently told Fox News that "if it was up to me, I'd shut down [the] government over border security," but added, "I don't want to do anything to hurt us or potentially hurt us" in the midterm elections.

"We look forward to reviewing the bill when it's released," White House Deputy Press Secretary Lindsay Walters told a reporter in the late afternoon on Sept. 13.

The agreements mark a distinct departure from recent appropriations cycles, which have regularly extended well into the following fiscal year and even resulted in shutdowns. While the Senate is in session next week, the House is not, and it will return Sept. 24.

"This is the first time since 2007 that the House and the Senate will send multiple appropriation measures to the president's desk on time," House Speaker Paul Ryan said.

About the Author

Chase Gunter is a former FCW staff writer.

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