Breakthrough in Congressional Funding – Sort Of

February 12, 2018​

Late last week Congress once again rode the knife’s edge, technically shutting down for a very short period of time. Leading up to this near failure of Congress to perform its basic duty of providing the funding lifeblood that allows government agencies to function, members of both Parties supplied their share of spectacle. For instance, U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA-12) took to the floor for a record eight-hour speech in an attempt to pressure her fellow Members of Congress into an agreement to address immigration issues. In the Senate, former Presidential candidate Rand Paul (R-KY) lambasted Members of Congress from both Parties for what he views as fiscal irresponsibility in the funding deal. The new law increases nondefense domestic and defense by $300 billion over two years and l​ifts the debt ceiling until March 2019.​​

The legislation that effectively serves as the playing field for so many other issues includes $89.3 billion in emergency funds for disaster response and recovery – of which $2.5 million could be used by the US Department of Labor for related worker protections. The bill also includes $20 billion for infrastructure, and provides $6 billion to fight the opioid epidemic. It’s possible that a portion of these funds could be used to help protect first responders and others who are at risk of exposure to opioids at work.

 

Despite this good news – and it is good news – the deal lasts only through March 2018, setting up yet another round of brinksmanship in just a handful of weeks as the minutes tick by until the mid-term elections. Looking into March and beyond, we’re likely to see either a year-long continuing resolution (CR) or an omnibus appropriations bill. Right now, my money is on a year-long CR, if only because it would be easier, providing both sides with essentially level funding and avoiding much of the tit for tat that comes with an omnibus in which some programs receive funding increases while others are cut. Keep in mind too, that President Donald J. Trump will soon release his budget request for the 2019 fiscal year and Members of Congress will be eager to refocus their attention on his proposals.