CHN: House Repeatedly Attempts to End Government Shutdown; Omnibus Package Proposed

The partial government shutdown has entered its second month with no clear end in sight, as the fight over billions of dollars for President Trump’s border wall continues. President Trump has said that he would veto a bill that did not provide $5.7 billion for a border wall and other border security measures, while Democrats in Congress oppose that amount. Some 800,000 federal workers remained either furloughed or working without pay, and the effects of the shutdown are being felt by millions more.

President Trump’s Jan. 19th televised statement reiterated his $5.7 billion demand, and added that he would agree to 3-year extensions of legal protections for those currently in the DACA program (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and for immigrants from Haiti, Central American countries, and elsewhere facing deportation because the Administration has terminated their Temporary Protected Status (TPS). The President’s offer has been rejected by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) at least in part because the extensions of legal status for DACA and TPS are too narrow (not going substantially beyond the protections now being provided by court rulings) and too much continues to be demanded for the wall.

The House of Representatives has passed several packages that would reopen the government, including passing Senate versions of four of the seven spending bills that have not yet been signed into law. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has so far refused to bring up any of the House bills in the Senate. Although he initially said he wouldn’t bring up any measures that don’t have President Trump’s and the Democratic leaders’ approval, he has now pivoted to say he’ll take the President’s proposal to the floor even though it has been opposed by the Democratic leaders. The Senate is expected to take up this week a measure that would combine the President’s proposal with a six-bill package similar to a House-backed package (described below) that would reopen and fund the rest of the government through the rest of the fiscal year.

Also this week, the House is expected to pass a stopgap measure, also known as a Continuing Resolution (CR), to reopen and fund all government operations through Feb. 28, without additional money for President Trump’s border wall. The bill is expected to pass along party lines and die in the Senate.

In addition, the House is expected to pass a six-bill “omnibus” spending package (H.R. 648) that combines compromise bills drafted last year by House and Senate Democratic and Republican negotiators. This package would reopen all government agencies currently affected by the shutdown (the Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Homeland Security, Agriculture, and others), except the Department of Homeland Security, which would control funding for a border wall.

While the President’s offer is expected to come up in the Senate this week (and fail for lack of 60 votes), the omnibus package in the House is considered to be close to what may eventually become law once the shutdown ends. Key components of the package for the human needs community include:

  • An extension through Sept. 30, 2020 of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, which provides cash assistance and help in moving from welfare to work for low-income families with children. The House on Jan. 15 passed by voice vote separate legislation to extend the authorization for TANF through June 30. State TANF programs are now using unspent federal dollars and the funds states must put up, but some are starting to run out of funds. The next installment of federal funds cannot go out until the program is extended. The National Governors Association sent a letter to Congress on January 19 calling for reauthorization of TANF.
  • An avoidance of any automatic cuts to Medicare and other benefits programs that could be triggered after the shutdown ends by the statutory pay-as-you-go rule.
  • A 4 percent increase in funding for the Department of Housing and Urban Development over FY18 levels, to $44.2 billion. The Tenant-Based Rental Assistance program is funded at $20.3 billion, adequate to renew all existing vouchers. Housing Programs are funded at $12.7 billion, an increase of $173 million above the FY18 enacted level and $726 million above the President’s budget request. The Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes is funded at $279 million, an increase of $49 million above the FY18 enacted level and $134 million above the President’s budget request.
  • $6.1 billion in FY19 funding for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), a decrease of $100 million from FY18 levels and $325 million above President Trump’s request. Full FY19 funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP/food stamps) and Child Nutrition Programs is also included.
  • A small increase of $17 million for the Environmental Protection Agency over FY18 levels, to $8.8 billion. The package contains some contentious policy changes, known as riders, that advocates oppose, while eliminating others that were contained in the version of the bill that previously passed the House.
  • A total of $3.82 billion, an increase of more than $1 billion above FY18 and $20.9 million above the President’s budget request, to enable the Census Bureau to prepare for the 2020 Decennial Census.
  • $497.5 million for Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) programs. VAWA expired on Dec. 21 with the start of the shutdown.
  • $415 million for the Legal Services Corporation, which is $5 million above the FY18 enacted level. The President had proposed completely eliminating this program, which helps provide legal assistance to underserved communities.

A summary of the omnibus by division from the House Appropriations Committee Majority Staff is available here. Congress and the President have already enacted legislation guaranteeing that furloughed federal workers and those working without pay will receive back pay once the shutdown ends. For more information on the effects of the government shutdown, see CHN’s Trump Shutdown Resources page as well as our blog, Voices for Human Needs.

Budget and Appropriations