Appropriations Coming Down to the Wire — Will There Be a Shutdown Tomorrow?

Appropriations Coming Down to the Wire — Will There Be a Shutdown Tomorrow?

The House today passed the new FY2017 Continuing Resolution (CR) to keep the government operating through April 28, 2017, but Senate Democrats are threatening to delay — but not block – a vote in the Senate.  If the bill is not cleared by Congress and signed by the President before midnight tomorrow, December 9, some parts of the government will have to shut down.

Only one of the 12 regular FY2017 appropriations bills has been signed into law — the Military Construction-Veterans Affairs (MilCon-VA) bill.   Funding for all other government operations that are part of discretionary spending — from DOD to NASA to NOAA to a who’s who of other agencies — ends at midnight tomorrow.   The new CR, H.R. 2028, Further Continuing and Security Assistance Appropriations, as amended, passed the House 326-96 this afternoon.

With the clock running out, expectations initially were that the Senate would approve it even if there were concerns about its provisions and the process itself.  Under Senate procedures, there first must be a vote to allow debate to occur (a cloture vote) after which 30 hours of debate are allowed.  That period can be shortened by unanimous consent.

However, Senate Democrats indicated today that they plan to prevent the abbreviated post-cloture debate by objecting to the unanimous consent request.  They are demanding an extension of health care benefits for coal miners that otherwise will expire in January.  The protest is led by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH). 

H.R. 2028, as passed by the House, includes a four-month extension of the benefits, but Manchin and Brown want a year-long extension.  Though narrowly framed, the debate is more broadly over whether President-elect Donald Trump will honor promises to coal miners during his campaign and how Democrats can exert their influence following the election results.

If Democrats hold to their position, the cloture vote would take place on Saturday, and a vote on the bill itself on Sunday.  Assuming it passes, that means a partial shutdown of the government would last for two days or less.

The new CR funds most government discretionary activities at their FY2016 levels until the end of April, although exceptions are made for NASA’s deep space human exploration program (Space Launch System, Exploration Ground Systems, and Orion) and NOAA’s Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) weather satellites.  In both cases, funds may be spent to ensure that the launch dates for Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1) and JPSS-1 do not slip.  H.R. 2028, as amended, also provides NASA with $74.7 million to repair damage from Hurricane Matthew.

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