Legislative Update: No Government Shutdown…For Now
Last Wednesday, in the final hours before the end of the fiscal year, Congress passed a short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) to avoid a government shutdown today and keep the government running until December 11th. In recent weeks, it was unclear whether Congress would be able to come to agreement on the measure. In the Senate, the CR passed with a vote of 78 to 20. The measure passed the House with bi-partisan support and a divided Republican party in a vote of 277 to 151, with 186 Democrats and 91 Republicans in favor and 141 Republicans opposing.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), who is set to retire from the speakership at the end of October, moved the bill forward despite most of his party opposing the measure. While Speaker Boehner’s decision to resign made it possible for him to move the bill forward without majority Republican support and minimal pushback from his party, this does not bode well for passing spending bills or another CR by December 11th. The party is still divided and the new Speaker will face the same dilemma of a) appeasing the majority of his party and have no bill or b) working with Democrats to move legislation forward at the expense of a united Republican party. It is very possible that we could face a government shutdown on December 11th.
The Child Nutrition Act, which sets policy for programs including WIC and the National School Lunch Program, will continue to run by virtue of funding availability through the CR in the short-term while Congress works to complete and pass the latest version of the Act. Stay tuned for more details as the Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR) process moves forward.
This week, Congressional leaders plan to work with President Obama to negotiate a longer-term spending deal and decide on terms for raising the debt limit. Legislative staffs from both sides of the aisle have already met with White House aides to get started on the process of trying to reach a two-year spending deal. Lifting spending caps, which has proven to be a particularly contentious budgetary issue, will be a key part of any negotiations for a long-term spending deal after the December 11th expiration of the current CR. The President has said he won’t sign any more short-term spending bills, nor will he sign a longer-term spending bill that does not lift the domestic discretionary spending caps.
In addition, House Republicans will be busy this week choosing Speaker John Boehner’s successor. They plan to vote by secret ballot this Thursday to pick their party’s nominee for speaker, an office that will be formally elected by the full House once Boehner officially departs at the end of the month. So far, Congressman Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is opposed by Daniel Webster (R-FL) and by Jason Chaffetz (R-UT).