The longest shutdown in U.S. history — spanning from late December 2018 to January 2019 — left many experts and members of Congress questioning whether legislators or the White House would once again have the stomach to threaten another shutdown for fiscal year 2020 if certain provisions are not met.
But Congress looks set to come up against another FY20 funding deadline without clear consensus on what a full government spending package should look like.
In late September, the House and Senate pushed the usual Sept. 30 deadline for government spending legislation to Nov. 21, temporarily funding all government agencies under the same spending levels that they had in FY19.
But members of Congress have appeared increasingly doubtful that a spending agreement could be reached before the Thanksgiving recess, with Democrats and Republicans seeming likely to come to an agreement that another continuing resolution would reach into late December.
The House, at least, has given itself a short timeframe to work with in passing that CR.
“Given the Senate’s failure to complete their work on appropriations, the House will have to consider a continuing resolution the week of November 18th,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., wrote in a Nov. 8 letter to house colleagues.
“This action will, unfortunately, be necessary to keep the government open as we work toward an agreement on 302(b) allocations, which will allow us to move appropriations bills that are in line with the bipartisan budget caps agreement. I remain hopeful that we can finish our work and fully fund the government before the end of the year.”
President Donald Trump told reporters gathered on the South Lawn Sunday that he would not hold up funding legislation over anger about the impeachment inquiry into his dealings with Ukraine, but would not commit that there was no possibility of a shutdown: “It depends on — it depends on what the negotiation — I wouldn’t commit to anything. It depends on what the negotiation is.”
According to National Treasury Employees Union National President Tony Reardon, the potential for failed negotiations and another shutdown over the holiday season is already causing federal employees some anxiety.
“Federal employees, like everyone else, are planning their family year-end celebrations and the thought that a government shutdown could ruin those plans is upsetting," said Reardon in a news release. "Civil servants are not involved in the funding dispute, yet they are the ones who suffer if it goes unresolved.”
A deferral of spending legislation also puts off 2020 decisions, such as how much of a pay raise to offer federal employees in the new year and whether certain programs will get an additional infusion of funding.
Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.