Shutdown Day 7 Recap

Yesterday, the House passed the latest in the series of limited funding bills, voting to fund the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) at post-sequestration levels. This resolution was approved by a vote of 235-162.

It was also reported yesterday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) may begin recalling some of its employees to work. CDC has been operating with 32 percent of its staff for the last week. This announcement comes after the FDA issued a public health alert regarding a salmonella outbreak on the West Coast.

A week into the federal government shutdown, the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll finds that 51% Americans disapprove of how President Obama is handling the budget negotiations while 45% approve, a slight improvement from the last week in September (41% approve to 50% disapprove). Americans also overwhelmingly disapprove of how both Congressional Democrats (61% disapprove) and Republicans (70% disapprove) are handling the negotiations.

Shutdown Day 3: Legislative Action Recap

On Thursday the House continued passing a series of limited continuing resolutions (CRs) to fund specific sections of the government. The House passed a resolution providing funding for veteran’s benefits by a vote of 259-157 and a bill to pay military reservists by a vote of 265-160. The House Rules Committee met yesterday to pass rules for 10 additional small CRs. The Senate has not acted on these “mini-CRs” – a few Republican Senators tried to seek unanimous consent for these bills yesterday but Democratic leadership attempted to amend each bill to replicate last week’s Senate-passed CR.

Normal business was briefly suspended when a car tried to breach road barriers outside the Capitol and Congress went from shutdown to lockdown.

Congress is expected to be in session this weekend, according to reports yesterday. It was also announced yesterday night that Secretary of State John Kerry will now be traveling to Indonesia and Brunei instead of President Obama.


Shutdown Day 2: Legislative Action Update

On Wednesday, the House resumed debate on bills to fund certain limited parts of the federal government – these bills were considered but did not pass the House on Tuesday and the House decided to reconsider them under different rules and procedures. Tuesday evening the House passed three separate funding measures – to fund the DC government (taken by voice vote, or no roll call), to fund the National Institutes of Health (NIH) (254-171), and to fund the national parks (252-173). The bills have been sent to the Senate, which has indicated they are not interested in passing individual spending measures, according to reports.

House and Senate leaders met at the White House yesterday evening. Present at the meeting were President Obama, Vice President Biden, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Speaker of the House John Boehner, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. It was reported that no deal was struck as a result of the meeting and that Obamacare continues to be the sticking point in negotiations.

With the shutdown lingering, President Obama announced yesterday that he will shorten a planned trip to Asia this weekend, and will reevalute the entire trip later this week.

On the non-shutdown front, House Democrats released draft immigration legislation and the House passed H.R. 3233, which would extend the period for special immigrant status to Iraqis employed by the U.S. government.

And the shutdown continues…

Shutdown Day 1: Legislative Action Recap

Late Monday night, about two hours ahead of the shutdown deadline, the House called for a Conference Committee. Yesterday, the Senate voted 54-46 to table the Conference Committee.

Also yesterday, the House took up a plan to vote on resolutions funding certain limited programs. The House voted and failed to suspend the rules and agree these “mini CRs” for veterans’ affairs (failed by vote of 264-164), national parks (failed by 252-176), and Washington, DC (failed by 265-163). A two-thirds majority, or 288 votes, is required to suspend the rules and bring legislation directly to the House floor.

While there was not much progress on the shutdown front, Congress did attend to some other work – the Senate named conferees to the Farm Bill.

Federal Government Shutdown

For the first time in 17 years, the federal government has officially shutdown.  Late last night, the Administration released a memo to all federal agencies advising them to execute their contingency plans (an agency-by-agency list is available here).

Yesterday the Senate passed a bill that would fund the government through November 15, 2013, but would make no changes to the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  (More information on the Senate vote is available here.)  Last night, by a vote of 228-201, the House passed legislation that would keep the government open through December 15, 2013, but would delay the ACA’s individual mandate requirement and would eliminate health insurance subsidies for Members of Congress, Congressional staff, the President, the Vice President, and political appointees.  By a vote of 54-46 the Senate voted to table, or kill, the legislation.

Following the latest Senate action, the House voted to formally request a conference committee with the Senate.  (Conference committees are joint House-Senate committees that are created to resolve disagreements between the House and Senate versions of a given bill.)  House Speaker Boehner (R-OH) appointed the following members to the conference committee:  House Majority Leader Cantor (R-VA-7), Ways and Means Chairman Camp (R-MI-4), House Budget Committee Chairman Ryan (R-WI-1), House Appropriations Chairman Rogers (R-KY-5), Representative Frelinghuysen (R-NJ-11), Representative Crenshaw (R-FL-4), Representative Carter (R-TX-31), and Representative Graves (R-GA-14).  House Democrats have not appointed conferees.  The Senate voted to table the request for conferees.

While the House and Senate cannot seem to agree on terms to fund the entire government, both chambers have passed H.R. 3210, legislation that would provide payment through the government shutdown for members of the Armed Forces (including reserve personnel) and civilian Department of Defense (DoD) employees and contractors whom the DoD Secretary determines are providing support to members of the Armed Forces.  The legislation passed the House by a unanimous vote, the Senate passed the bill by a voice vote, and was signed into law by President Obama last night.

At this point, both the House and the Senate appear at a stalemate.  Until Members of Congress can reach some agreement, the government shutdown will remain in place.  We will continue to update this blog as events unfold.

Federal Shutdown Likely

On Friday, September 27, 2013, the Senate passed a short-term continuing resolution (CR) that would keep the government operating through November 15, 2013.  (More information on the Senate vote is available here). Late Saturday night (September 28th), the House passed legislation that would fund the federal government through December 15, 2013, delay implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for one year, and also repeal the 2.3 percent tax on medical devices.

Today, Monday, September 30, 2013, by a vote of 54-46, the Senate passed a bill that would fund the federal government through November 15th.  The Senate did not adopt provisions in the House-passed bill that would delay implementation of the ACA and repeal the device tax.

With only hours to go before the end of the 2013 fiscal year, a federal government shutdown is all but certain.  The Administration has published a list of each agency’s contingency plans in the event of a government shutdown.

We will continue to update this blog as events unfold.

Senate Passes CR

Today, by a vote of 54 to 44 the Senate passed a short-term continuing resolution (CR) which would keep the government running through November 15, 2013.  Unless some version of a CR is enacted by midnight on Monday, September 30, 2013, the government faces a shutdown.

Last week the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would keep the government funded through December 15, 2013, but also called for the defunding of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  Earlier this month, the Obama Administration released a Statement of Administrative Policy (SAP) indicating the President would veto the House-passed bill.

Now that the Senate has passed its CR, the House will have to decide whether to accept the Senate measure or attempt to pass a different bill.  If the House agrees to the Senate-passed measure, the bill will then go to the President for his signature and a government shutdown will be avoided.  If the House does not accept the Senate-passed bill and decides to make changes, the Senate will have to vote on the revised measure and due to various procedural procedures in the Senate, a government shutdown becomes more likely.

An Appropriations Hiccup – House Delays Consideration of Continuing Resolution to Keep Government Operating

Earlier this week the House appeared poised to move swiftly to consideration and passage of H.J. Res. 59, the FY 2014 continuing resolution (or C.R.), which would keep the functions of the government operating between the upcoming start of the new federal fiscal year (October 1st) through December 15, 2013.  Unlike traditional appropriations measures, which can be hundreds of pages long, this draft stop-gap measure clocks in on the Government Printing Office (GPO) website at a mere 16 pages.

Generally the C.R. maintains virtually everything “at a rate for operations as provided in the applicable appropriations Acts for fiscal year 2013.”  In plain English, this means that Congress basically is keeping the lights on for the federal government at the same funding levels as the previous year.  However, the bill does contain a number of “anomalies,” which are a means through which Congress can adjust funding levels for specific programs in a C.R. to be higher or lower than the previous year’s funding level. For example, the bill includes two specific line-item appropriations additional funding for both the Department of Interior’s Wildland Fire Management program and the Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service Wildland Fire Management “for urgent wildland fire suppression activities” to help address fires in the west, including Yosemite.

House Republican leaders introduced the funding measure on Tuesday, with plans to bring the measure to the House floor today for a vote.  To address requests from a bloc of their members, the House GOP leadership had planned to link the stopgap funding measure to language that would defund implementation of the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. ACA, health care reform or ObamaCare) in the coming year.  The original plan was to have two sequential votes – one on the funding measure itself and a second on a separate resolution eliminating the funding for the ACA; following House passage, both measures would be sent to the Senate for consideration.  However, a number of House Republicans have expressed significant concern that such a strategy would allow the Senate to ignore the ACA-related measure, given the chamber is in Democratic control.  Given growing concern and opposition within the House Republican ranks, the leadership decided to delay today’s votes and take more time to build support for the legislative and procedural approach.  As such, earlier today, House Majority Whip Eric Cantor announced to his members that the previously scheduled recess period for the week of September 23 could turn into a Washington work week as a C.R. must be passed by both chambers and sent to the President for enactment on or before September 30, otherwise the government will shut down.  To follow the House legislative activity and calendar, visit:

Congressional Fiscal Triple Play or Strike Out?

Call it an unholy trinity, a bad hat trick, a fiscal triumvirate, or a three-pronged cluster…no matter how you look at it, Congress has three big fiscal issues to tackle in a very short period of time:  the impending October 1 start of the federal fiscal year (FY 2014 for those who like budget speak), the expiration of the nation’s borrowing authority (aka debt ceiling) in mid-October, and those ongoing across-the-board cuts (that kooky “sequestration” we have been living under), which everyone would like to replace or otherwise retire or tweak in some way, shape, or form.

All this and only nine Congressional working days left in the month of September.

Given the truncated timeline, it is likely Congress will enact a short term, stop-gap spending measure (known as a continuing resolution) that generally will keep the government operating until policymakers can (maybe) come to broader agreement on the 12 individual appropriations bills that are supposed to be enacted to fund the federal government.  Long gone are the days of “regular order” appropriations, when bills were agreed to by both chambers and signed by the president on – or actually before – September 30.  The new “regular” order is enactment of continuing resolutions and missed deadlines.

The additional pressure of the government soon bumping up against the debt ceiling – the Treasury’s borrowing authority – means policymakers are likely to try to link the various fiscal issues together and start horse trading.  Although the deficit is smaller than it was at the start of this fiscal year, discretionary and mandatory spending outlays are decreasing, and more is coming into the Treasury than before, overall federal spending still outpaces income and elected officials maintain fundamentally different views regarding the role and size of government.  And none of this changes the fact that 10,000 people a day turn 65 and become eligible for Social Security and Medicare – two of the largest slices of the federal pie that are demographically poised to crowd out other spending.  So, not to be forgotten in the federal fiscal mix is entitlement reform – but we (like Congress) will tackle that another day.

For now the question remains:  will Congress clear the bases with a successful at-bat or strike out?  Only time (nine days) will tell.

Dewonkify – Anomaly

The Word: Anomaly

Definition: A mechanism for providing funding or other changes for a program that would otherwise not receive funding or continue in its current form under a continuing resolution (CR). Anomalies, which are typically only granted in special circumstances, can be used to adjust funding levels for specific programs in a CR to be higher or lower than the previous year’s funding level.

Used In A Sentence: “Anomalies typically are included to prevent what some or all stakeholders and parties to CR negotiations perceive as major programmatic, operational, or management problems that would be caused if an otherwise ‘cookie cutter’ approach were used to provide funding at a uniform rate and with uniform restrictions.” From “Interim Continuing Resolutions (CRs): Potential Impacts on Agency Operations,” Clinton T. Brass, Congressional Research Service, March 16, 2010.

Why It’s Relevant: As the end of fiscal year (FY) 2013 nears, it is looking likely that a CR will be needed at least for part of FY 2014. In preparation for a CR, last week the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) sent their list of anomalies to Capitol Hill.