End to Shutdown Near, But Might Be Temporary – UPDATE

End to Shutdown Near, But Might Be Temporary – UPDATE

Within the past hour, the House and Senate passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) to reopen NASA, NOAA and other agencies and departments that have been shut down since December 21, 2018.  It now must be signed by President Trump, who said today that he will do so.  It is only for three weeks, however, expiring on February 15.  In announcing the deal with Congress, Trump threatened to shut the government down again at that point if Democrats do not agree on a border security plan that meets his demands. UPDATE, Jan. 25, 2019: Trump signed the bill this evening.

The deal is to reopen the agencies that have been shut down, and, separately, hold conference negotiations between the House and Senate on the FY2019 Homeland Security appropriations bill where funding for border security resides.

Separating government operations from the policy debate over border security was a core Democratic demand.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer insisted that the functioning of the U.S. government and the jobs of federal employees should not be held hostage to a policy dispute.

The deal agreed to today is the same as what passed the Senate in December except for the expiration date.  On December 19, 2018 the Senate passed a “clean” CR to fund those departments and agencies whose FY2019 appropriations had not yet cleared Congress through February 8 with the understanding Trump agreed.

After he was criticized by some ultra conservative members of Congress and media voices, Trump changed his mind and said he would not sign it unless it included funding for his border wall.  He earlier had said he would be “proud” to shut down the government in order to get funding for the wall.  The House was under Republican control at the time and amended the bill, adding $5.7 million for Trump’s border wall as well as $7.8 billion for disaster relief.

That bill was a non-starter in the Senate, where 60 votes were needed for passage.  At midnight December 21, government departments and agencies in seven of the 12 regular appropriations bills including NASA and NOAA (part of the Department of Commerce) no longer had funding.  All but essential operations were suspended and 800,000 federal employees no longer were paid, although some had to work anyway.

Democrats took control of the House on January 3 and passed a CR to fund all but the Department of Homeland Security for the rest of FY2019, and a separate bill to fund Homeland Security temporarily while negotiations continued. It subsequently passed other versions of appropriations bills, but the Senate did not take up any until yesterday when competing Republican and Democratic bills were considered.  Both were defeated.

Trump announced the agreement this afternoon and the Senate and House quickly passed the CR.

Assuming Trump does, in fact, sign the CR, it will bring the 35 day shutdown to an end, the longest in history.  Whether there will be another one in three weeks is an open question.  Trump said:

So let me be very clear: We really have no choice but to build a powerful wall or steel barrier.  If we don’t get a fair deal from Congress, the government will either shut down on February 15th, again, or I will use the powers afforded to me under the laws and the Constitution of the United States to address this emergency.  We will have great security. — President  Donald Trump

One factor that apparently convinced Trump to back down today was disruptions to air traffic because too few air traffic controllers came to work.  They are among the federal employees being forced to work while not being paid.  Today was also the second time federal workers did not receive paychecks (they are paid biweekly).

User Comments

SpacePolicyOnline.com has the right (but not the obligation) to monitor the comments and to remove any materials it deems inappropriate.  We do not post comments that include links to other websites since we have no control over that content nor can we verify the security of such links.