Congress to Extend Appropriations CR For Two More Weeks

Congress to Extend Appropriations CR For Two More Weeks

The death of President George H.W. Bush and activities in Washington to honor him have derailed congressional plans for the week.  The Continuing Resolution (CR) that is funding agencies like NASA and NOAA expires on Friday at midnight, so Congress quickly decided that they will pass an extension to keep the entire government operating until December 21.

The bill is short and sweet, simply changing the end date in the existing CR from December 7 to December 21 and extending the flood insurance program for the same two weeks.

Roll Call reports that the House has cancelled all votes for this week, but those are recorded votes.  The CR extension can pass by voice vote so few members need to be present.  The Senate has cancelled all votes until after the memorial service at the National Cathedral on Wednesday, but that gives plenty of time to pass this, assuming there is no opposition.  President Trump reportedly has agreed to sign it.

The issues remain the same, however.  This just postpones the day of reckoning.  President Trump has threatened to shut down those agencies whose funding has not been signed into law yet if Congress does not provide the $5 billion he is demanding for the border wall.  Neither Republicans nor Democrats are prepared to provide that much in a single fiscal year, at least so far.

Five of the 12 regular appropriations bills have been signed into law, including defense.  Thus, there is less to lose politically by shutting down the remaining departments and agencies funded in the other seven bills, but there still would be quite a bit.  Among those funded by the CR are the Department of Homeland Security (the bill that includes the border wall), the Department of State, the Department of Commerce (including NOAA), the Department of Justice, and many more, including NASA.

Shutting them down four days before Christmas, meaning all those government workers and contractors would be in a non-pay status, is politically risky.

Thus, the choice of date may signal that they do expect to reach an agreement, or that they have already concluded they cannot and a further extension of the CR into 2019 is in the offing.

For now, assuming the bill does pass the House and Senate and President Trump signs it, the government will continue operating as usual until at least December 21.

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