On Congress’s To-Do List: Prevent a Shutdown in 18 Days

On Congress’s To-Do List: Prevent a Shutdown in 18 Days


Congressional appropriators back from their Thanksgiving recess have just three weeks to hammer out details on dozens of policy differences over federal funding for fiscal year 2020, which started on October 1. At stake: A possible partial government shutdown when current stopgap funding expires on December 20.

House Democrats and Senate Republicans overcame one hurdle before the holiday, reaching an agreement on how to allocate $1.37 trillion in discretionary spending across 12 annual appropriations bills.

Roll Call’s Jennifer Shutt reports on the hurdles that remain:

“Subcommittee chairmen and ranking members now need to work out how much of their allocation goes to the various agencies funded in the bills and resolve some of the most polarizing issues facing the country, including the border wall, family planning grants and gun violence research.

“For now, appropriators are hopeful they can get much of their work done before the stopgap spending bill expires Dec. 20 at midnight. But three weeks is not a lot of time to resolve all the differences, leaving open the possibility that some bills get resolved while others face yet another continuing resolution. Another partial government shutdown also cannot be ruled out.”

Homeland Security funding remains a key point of contention, with the final top-line allocation for the department lower than Senate Republicans had provided in their bill, which provided nearly $71 billion, including $5 billion for construction of border barriers. The bill covering military construction and the VA is also likely to be the subject of heated fights as Democrats look to restrict the Trump administration’s ability to again divert funding toward barrier construction.

Among the other provisions that could become flashpoints in the negotiations are:

  • $50 million provided by the House version of the Labor-HHS-Education bill for gun violence research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention;
  • A Democratic effort to roll back a Trump administration rule preventing health care organizations that provide or refer patients for abortions from receiving Title X family planning grants.

To avoid a shutdown after December 20, lawmakers will need to pass all 12 of the spending bills — or they could pass some of the 12 full-year bills and another continuing resolution covering any parts of the government that have not been funded.

Read more at Roll Call.