CHN: Stopgap Spending Bill Pushes Potential FY19 Partial Government Shutdown off for Two Weeks

A partial government shutdown was avoided when President Trump on Dec. 7 signed a stopgap measure, also known as a Continuing Resolution (CR), to fund several federal departments through Dec. 21. Both the House and Senate passed the measure on Dec. 6 to send it the President’s desk. Five of the 12 Fiscal Year 2019 appropriations bills that are required to keep the government running have already been signed into law, including the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, Energy and Water Development, and Legislative Branch spending bills and those funding the Department of Defense and the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor-H). The remaining seven appropriations bills that have not yet been enacted, including those that cover the Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Homeland Security, Agriculture, and others, were covered in the CR, with funding provided at FY18 levels.

Authorization for the Violence Against Women Act and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program were also extended through Dec. 21 in the CR. See the related article in this Human Needs Report for more on the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.

The possibility of a government shutdown after Dec. 21 isn’t totally out of the question, however. President Trump is seeking $5 billion for his border wall, and the House-passed spending bill for the Department of Homeland Security bill includes that amount. The Senate-passed bill, however, provides $1.6 billion for fencing and border security, which is the amount the President originally requested in his FY19 budget request. Democrats in Congress are standing firm that no more than $1.6 billion should be appropriated, while President Trump has said that he would veto a bill that did not provide $5 billion. The FY18 spending bill passed in March already provided nearly $1.6 billion toward new and existing fencing and related technologies on the southern border; according to Congressional staff, only 6 percent of those funds have been spent to date, leading Democrats and advocates to argue that additional funding is unnecessary, wasteful, and would divert urgently needed resources from human needs priorities.

The Trump Administration is also seeking several so-called ‘anomalies,’ or adjustments to funding levels, in a year-end spending package. For example, the White House is seeking an additional $190 million for housing detained unaccompanied migrant children at the southern border. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), who in January will become the head of the House Appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over the Department of Health and Human Services, and who is a staunch opponent of the Administration’s policy of detaining migrant children and separating them from their parents, told reporters, “Over my dead body will we provide another nickel for these folks to do what they’re doing.” The White House is also asking for $1 billion more than its original FY19 budget request for the 2020 Decennial Census and $58 billion more for immigration judge teams. In these last two cases, the Senate versions of the relevant spending bills provided these funding levels. While the House bills provided higher totals, some of the House decennial Census funds would be held until the first quarter of 2020, leaving less available than the Senate bill for critical Census preparation needs in 2019.

It is expected that the President will meet with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) on Dec. 11 to try to reach a deal to avoid a shutdown. In addition to border wall funding, some other issues may remain unsettled, including funding for the decennial Census, language preventing the inclusion of a citizenship question, and the exclusion of the harmful partisan policy changes, known as riders, that were included in House versions of the bills but not Senate versions. A December shutdown could be avoided in several ways: with the passage of the remaining FY19 spending bills; with another short-term CR; with another CR that would go for the rest of FY19 for all remaining bills; or with a CR for the Department of Homeland Security that would last the rest of the fiscal year paired with the passage of the other six remaining FY19 spending bills.

Budget and Appropriations