House to Consider Spending CR

September 18, 2019

Later this week, the House will consider a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government running before the Oct. 1 fiscal year deadline. The measure will keep the government funded through Nov. 21 and buy time for action and negotiations on $1.4 trillion in annual appropriations bills. The Senate is expected to follow with a vote in time to meet the Sept. 30 deadline to avert a government shutdown.

Earlier this summer, President Trump signed a two-year bipartisan budget and debt bill setting the top-line numbers for defense and domestic programs. That deal removes a major hurdle for negotiators on the appropriations committees who are allocating specific agency budgets. But both chambers would still need to approve the spending bills for federal agencies before the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30—which seems unlikely due to the tight timeframe. 

Although the two-year budget and debt ceiling deal between Congress and the White House set a $1.4 trillion limit for discretionary spending in fiscal year 2020, which starts Oct. 1, lawmakers have not negotiated the 12 individual annual spending bills for government operations. The House has approved 10 of the 12 required annual spending measures, but those bills will need to be reconciled with the Senate versions and adjusted to fall in line with the two-year budget deal agreed to by Congress and President Trump before the August recess.

Several extensions of expiring programs could become part of a CR, including yet another short-term reauthorization for the National Flood Insurance Program, which is set to expire at the end of the month. The program has been relying on short-term authorizations since 2017, and while House leaders have passed a compromise bill out of committee, H.R. 3167, there is little indication that the Senate will do the same before the Sept. 30 deadline.

Another agency facing a Sept. 30 deadline for reauthorization is the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im), the export financier that has faced opposition from both conservatives and environmental groups over the years. Debate over a long-term renewal stalled this summer amid Democratic concerns about a provision in its Ex-Im Bank reauthorization bill limiting investments in Chinese companies. The government funding legislation could potentially become a vehicle for extending the operations of Ex-Im.

Last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) endorsed a short-term spending bill to avoid a shutdown, a recognition that Congress needs several more weeks of negotiations to hatch a longer-term spending bill and fund the government into next fall. Leader McConnell has said the Senate’s focus in September will be working out yearlong funding bills based on the two-year budget agreement forged before the August recess. However, any effort to tack on money for a border wall or other Republican priorities to a spending bill could potentially trigger another shutdown.