Funding Deadline Looms Over Congress

While Members of Congress weigh the President’s OSHA nominee, they are also nervously debating how to fund the government as December 8 approaches – the date when the current spending law expires. The House has already passed its funding bills, and with Republican control of the Senate and White House one might be tempted to believe the sailing should be smooth, however several factors are complicating matters – some of which tie directly back to disaster relief.

Texas Governor Greg Abbot is seeking $61 billion from Congress for hurricane relief, and you can bet that more will be requested from Texas and other States. These figures have put Congressional fiscal hawks in a tight spot, with some voicing serious concerns that they are effectively being asked to sign a series of blank checks for emergency funding (which is typically not offset). These fiscal conservatives are arguing that the proximate emergency has passed, and thus at least a portion of additional funds should be matched by cuts elsewhere.

Other factors complicating the timeline for enacting funding legislation include Republicans’ desire to pass tax reform legislation by Thanksgiving, and the need to negotiate differences between House and Senate numbers. The House-passed bills would cut OSHA by $21.3 million, MSHA by $13.8 million, and NIOSH by $10 million, however the ERCs, Ag Centers, NORA, and Personal Protective Technology programs would all be level-funded. The Senate has different figures – each of these programs would be level-funded under their versions.

Further adding to policymaker’s anxiety: The US Treasury recently said the debt ceiling will likely need to be raised again sometime in January.​