Capitol Correspondence - 06.22.21

Big Picture: Potential for Federal Government Shutdown Looming in the Distant Future

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While at this time there is no immediate threat of a federal government shutdown due to Congress not passing its funding legislation in a timely manner, ANCOR is monitoring this situation because of its potential to delay major policy discussions in the late summer. As reported by Politico Pro:

“The next government shutdown threat is 15 weeks away, and already top lawmakers assume they won’t strike a deal in time to prevent another funding punt.

Half a dozen senators on the influential Appropriations Committee interviewed by POLITICO seem to have resigned themselves to keeping the government functioning past September using a stopgap funding bill known as a continuing resolution, rather than passing a long-term spending bill. A continuing resolution maintains government funding at current levels — a frustrating but increasingly necessary measure — to ensure the lights stay on but prevents Congress from making desired adjustments to spending.

Congress has failed for well over a decade to meet the Oct. 1 deadline for funding the government, resorting each year to temporary patches that spell budgetary turmoil for the Pentagon, not to mention every non-defense agency at the whim of the fickle spending process. But seldom have lawmakers been so behind in that work as they are this year. And President Joe Biden shares in the blame for the funding stasis.


Unquestionably, the current focus in Washington is talks on an infrastructure bill. Before that, it was the $1.9 trillion pandemic aid package. That single-track strategy is Biden’s style, and funding the government has stayed out of frame, as demonstrated by the new president’s record-setting delay in sending Congress his budget request last month.


Striking a funding deal will not be easy for Biden and leaders of the closely divided Congress. Besides the fact that at least 10 Senate Republicans will need to be on board with an endgame spending agreement, Democrats themselves are significantly at odds over how much to spend on the military.


Lawmakers from both parties contend that it will require more buy-in from the White House to eventually arrive at a funding deal that can pass both chambers and earn Biden’s signature. […]

Without a similar agreement this year, the House is expected to pass spending bills next month that are smaller than the defense spending total Senate Republicans would support and far exceed the sums for non-defense spending that the upper chamber’s GOP lawmakers would approve. That prospect only underscores the inevitability of an impasse.”