Senate Democrats today warned their Republican colleagues that they would not support appropriations bills unless they included essential spending priorities, raising the risks of a potential federal government shutdown after April 28, 2017.
The warning is no idle threat as passage of Senate spending bills will require a 60-vote threshold.
In a letter to Senate Majority Leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-KY, and Senate Appropriations Committee Chair, Sen. Thad Cochran, R-MS, Senate Minority Leader, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, and Senate Appropriations Committee ranking member, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-VT, warned against spending bills that include "poison-pill riders," the use of emergency spending to increase defense spending without equal increases for non-defense spending, and attempts to increase funding for a Southern border wall with Mexico.
Creating more funding uncertainty, Senate floor action on spending bills is unlikely to happen until just before the Continuing Resolution (CR) expires April 28th.
Meanwhile, the nation’s borrowing limit is set to be reached in just three days – March 16, and Democrats are pressing the White House to make clear the President’s intentions to raise the limit. The U.S. Treasury is expected to embrace what are generally referred to as “extraordinary measures” to avoid a payments default as the debt ceiling is reached this fall.
White House Budget Challenges
Later this week, the President’s fiscal year 2018 bare-bones budget is expected to be released with anticipated deep cuts in social justice programs, clean energy, the State Department and the EPA to cover the unprecedented $54 billion increase in defense spending. Additionally, the White House will release a signed Executive Order today requiring department and agency heads to identify areas in their budget to cut. Adding to this already fraught process – few political appointees have been nominated, let alone confirmed and in place, to make those budget decisions. At USDA, for example, there is no Secretary of Agriculture in place and only an Acting Undersecretary at the Food Nutrition & Consumer Services.
Anticipated budget cuts are expected to have a significant impact on federal workers and to be felt particularly hard in the Washington area. According to Moody’s Analytics, the anticipated reductions would drive up unemployment in the Washington DC area by nearly two percentage points, reducing personal income by 3.5 percent, and lowering home prices by nearly two percent.