The Shutdown is Over — For Now

The Shutdown is Over — For Now

President Trump just signed H.R. 195 into law, the Continuing Resolution (CR) to keep the government funded through February 8. The bill passed the Senate and the House earlier today, ending a 3-day shutdown of government operations.  Congress must pass and the President must sign another appropriations bill by February 8, however, or the same situation could develop again.

Many government agencies, including NASA, posted messages on their websites and social media accounts that they were suspended because of the shutdown.  NASA is scheduled to televise a spacewalk from the International Space Station beginning at 5:30 am ET tomorrow morning. The spacewalk itself begins about 7:10 am ET.  At press time the NASA TV website is still showing the message that it is unavailable because of the shutdown, but that could be resolved by the time of the spacewalk.

The shutdown may be over for now, but the bill funds the government for only the next three weeks.  By then, Congress must either pass the regular FY2018 appropriations bills or another CR to avoid running out of money again.  The government has been funded by a series of CRs since it began on October 1, 2017.  This is the fourth.

The House has passed all 12 of the regular FY2018 appropriations bills.  The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved its versions of all 12, but none have passed the Senate.

More broadly, Congress has not decided how much the government may spend in FY2018.  That spending is subject to caps set by the 2011 Budget Control Act.  While there is broad agreement that the caps need to be raised, there are differences as to whether they should be raised for both defense and non-defense activities and by how much.

This CR also reauthorizes the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for another 6 years, but does not address immigration issues.  Senate Democrats forced a temporary government shutdown because they sought protections for immigrants brought here illegally by their parents when they were children — the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) or “Dreamers” issue.  Earlier today, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer agreed to reopen the government in exchange for a promise by Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell to bring a separate immigration bill to the Senate floor for debate in the near future.

The Senate vote in favor of restoring government operations was 81-18.  The House quickly followed suit by voting in favor of the CR 266-150.  President Trump signed the bill into law just before 9:00 pm ET.

The difference between this CR and the one passed by the House last week is that it ends on February 8 instead of February 16.  House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer noted after the vote that the House is scheduled to be in session for only six days between now and February 8.

Time will tell if Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate can reach agreement on spending before this new CR expires.

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