It has only been four months since the federal government reopened after the longest shutdown in U.S. history. Congress is not eager for a repeat, but the Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 appropriations process is not shaping up to be easy.
White House officials and congressional leaders have been holding talks in an attempt to broker a deal that avoids steep automatic spending cuts in FY 2020, as required by the Budget Control Act of 2011. Since 2013, lawmakers have been able to lift the budget caps using some creative measures for future year spending. Congress must also tackle the debt limit issue again with a default likely to occur in late summer. Ultimately, these two issues will be paired and negotiated together, but it is anyone’s guess on timing.
The House Appropriations Committee has pushed ahead anyway, passing nearly all 12 spending bills with five of the 12 being debated on the House floor beginning tonight. So far, the Senate has yet to release any of its spending bills until top line levels are agreed to.
After an agreement is reached, there will still be varying views on what House Democrats and Senate Republicans want to prioritize between defense and non-defense discretionary funding, which will lead to interesting conference negotiations. Add a multitude of other policy issues, including border security and immigration measures, and it starts to sound like what led to last year’s shutdown. But if anyone has experience in waiting until the last minute for a solution – even if it’s a kick the can down the road patch – it’s Congress. Stay tuned.
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