Federal Employees News Digest

Trump funds gov’t through Dec. 20

President Donald Trump signed a bill to keep government open through Dec. 20 while lawmakers hash out their differences over funding.

The current stopgap funding measure keeping government open was set to expire at midnight on Nov. 21.

The Senate passed the continuing resolution by a 74-20 vote on Nov. 21.

The measure, which had already passed in the House of Representatives, mostly maintains spending at fiscal 2019 levels but contains a spending boost for the Census Bureau as it prepares for its 2020 population count and a 3.1% pay raise for uniformed military. The bill also extends several health care programs and certain surveillance authorities in the Patriot Act well into next year. Those authorities were scheduled to expire at the end of 2019, and the policy fight over their renewal on Capitol Hill will be punted until next March.

"This measure keeps the government open and allows our discussions on the fiscal 2020 process to continue," Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said in a statement. "I am hopeful that we can reach a resolution soon so we can provide government agencies -- our military, in particular -- the funding and flexibility they need to operate efficiently and effectively."

Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said it was "time for senators on both sides of the aisle to put the appropriations process back on track.  We owe it to the American taxpayers to complete the government funding process before December 20 and avoid a senseless government shutdown."

The House has its own road map of how to spend the $1.37 trillion agreed by Congress as the top-line spending cap for fiscal year 2020 and has passed 10 of 12 appropriations bills. On the Senate side, things are moving more slowly. While a set of non-controversial funding bills has passed, the Senate still hasn't agreed on how funds will be distributed across the 12 appropriations bills.

The big issue this year, as it was last year when there was a shutdown, is funding for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. The Democrat-controlled House is opposed to both funding the wall and restoring funds to the Defense Department and military construction projects that were diverted to the wall under an emergency declaration by President Donald Trump.

Shelby told reporters that talks over spending levels have "improved vastly" and said that "we're getting close to the numbers." However he acknowledged that the wall looms large in the funding debate. That issue "is going to have to be resolved before we get some type of legislation," he said.

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