Md. lawmaker aims to avoid shutdown

The House of Representatives is expected to pass a continuing resolution to keep the government open past the close of fiscal year 2019.

In a letter to House colleagues dated Sept. 5, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said that he expects lawmakers to vote on a "clean continuing resolution" to avoid a government shutdown on Oct. 1.

"The week of September 16th, I expect the House to consider a clean continuing resolution to fund the government past September 30th," Hoyer wrote. "While the House did its work and sent ten appropriations bills to the Senate, covering 96% of government funding, I am disappointed that the Senate failed to introduce a single appropriations bill for the first time in more than three decades."

Hoyer didn't indicate how long a continuing resolution might last, but in a call with members in August, the majority leader said to expect a stopgap bill through Nov. 22, right before the Thanksgiving recess, according to multiple press reports.

According to a senior Senate staffer, the Senate will begin the process of releasing and marking up its funding bills shortly and bringing them to the full Senate for votes. The legislative calendar is crowded between Sept. 9, when lawmakers return, and the close of the fiscal year.

There's no word yet on whether the Senate or President Donald Trump will back a "clean" continuing resolution that doesn't include any targeted spending, new cuts or, perhaps critically, doesn't add to funding for a border wall along the U.S.-Mexico frontier -- a top priority for Trump.

Additionally, the House faces the thorny issue of how to respond to plans announced by Trump to divert $3.6 billion in military construction spending to pay for the wall. Democrats have said they will not provide additional funds to backfill military construction projects that lose money to the wall. A full 2020 appropriations package that -- like last year -- does not include wall funding could result in a shutdown.

So is another shutdown in the offing?

"It's time to prepare but not to panic," Alan Chvotkin, executive vice president and counsel at the Professional Services Council, told FCW.

The top line budget agreement passed in August was a "godsend," Chvotkin said. The deal included $1.37 trillion in discretionary spending for fiscal year 2020 -- $738 billion for defense and $632 billion for civilian programs.

The budget agreement "set the framework for a long term agreement, but it's not the details," Chvotkin said. He said there's not much chance an appropriations package could be ready by Oct. 1, but he said he hoped that the period of a continuing resolution can be cut short by passage of a funding bill.

"There's a lot of work that can be accomplished in September to minimize the period that agencies have to operate under a continuing resolution," Chvoktin said, adding that life under a CR has its own challenges.

"It's better than a shutdown for certain, but it's still disruptive," he said.

This article was updated with comment on Sept. 9.

Reader comments

Thu, Sep 12, 2019

Thank the elected officials responsible for the previous shutdown by voting them all out in November. They are all useless and do nothing to protect the interests of hard working civil servants.

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