Disaster averted, or just delayed?

gettyimages.com/Greggory DiSalvo

A continuing resolution was signed Saturday averting a government shutdown, but there is still a lot to overcome ahead of the new Nov. 17 deadline.

I was as surprised as anyone that Congress passed a continuing resolution on Saturday just hours before the government was to shut down.

It didn’t seem possible on Friday. But with just hours to spare, the warring factions on Capitol Hill landed on the most logical solution even if it is a short-term one.

Congress passed a so-called clean CR and punted any long-term decision on a fiscal year 2024 budget. The new deadline Congress must meet is Nov. 17.

According to the rhetoric, the two parties will hammer out individual appropriations and still have significant differences around key priorities. They will fight over the defense bill and aid to Ukraine.

Outside of perhaps the Veterans Affairs and the Homeland Security departments, domestic spending bills will face battles over deep cuts that many Republicans want.

Can all of these differences be sorted out before Nov. 17. Maybe, but we probably face a prospect of a partial shutdown as we did in 2018-19 when some agencies had appropriations and others didn’t.

A complicating factor is what happens with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-California).

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Florida) has vowed to call for a motion to vacate, which is step one in getting McCarthy removed from the speakership. That motion to vacate will be followed by a vote on a resolution to remove McCarthy from the speakership.

The vote is not automatic and can be blocked by amendments and other motions. But McCarthy has just four GOP seats he can afford to lose. This assumes that no Democrats support him in fighting off a motion to vacate.

If the vote to strip McCarthy of the speakership succeeds, the process for electing a speaker begins again just as it did in January when it took 15 ballots to elect McCarthy.

One big difference from January is that House members have been sworn in and committee chairs are in place. The committees can continue to work and hold hearings – theoretically finishing appropriations bills. But votes on bills cannot come to the House floor because electing a speaker is the only business of the House.

If Gaetz makes his motion to vacate, it will come up for a House vote in 48 hours. If that happens and Gaetz gets the votes to oust McCarthy and then the ballots begin to elect a new speaker, it will likely be a week or more before anything substantial gets accomplished.

Who would replace McCarthy? It is hard to imagine anyone being elected speaker who would satisfy the hard right wing of the GOP House caucus.

All of that needs to be resolved before spending priorities are reconciled so a lot has to happen between now and Nov. 17 when we will again be on the brink of a shutdown.

O course, for government contractors there is precious little in your control.

Most of you have been spending time the last few weeks preparing for a shutdown. Keep doing that. And if you didn’t, get started:

  • Talk to your contracting officers
  • Understand your funding sources
  • Talk to your banks
  • Look for things you can do with locked out employees, such as training
  • Talk to your employees

Forty-five days is a significant chunk of time. We have a reprieve but this is far from over.