With Less than One Week Remaining, Government Funding Deal Yet to Be Struck

After a brief shutdown and short-term continuing resolution that was passed in mid-January, less than one week remains before federal government funding expires on Thursday, February 8. Negotiations between Congressional leaders and the White House have continued, though an agreement has yet to be struck. Congress will be forced once more to pass another short-term continuing resolution to extend current federal government funding levels—the fifth of its kind since September 30, 2017—or face another federal government shutdown.

Congressional Republicans are piecing together a six-week funding measure to keep the federal government open through Friday, March 23. The measure is likely to be taken up for consideration and a vote by Congress in the early part of next week. Republicans have indicated they may include a funding reauthorization for community health centers and expired Medicare provisions to attract support from Congressional Democrats, though details are unclear.

Absent from the short-term funding measure are significant issue items, including a bipartisan agreement to spending caps, reforms to the nation’s immigration system, or a solution to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program that expires next month. Reports suggest little appetite for another government shutdown among Congressional Republicans or Democrats, particularly after last month’s three-day shutdown yielded no material results over agreements on significant issues.

The March 23 funding expiration date that is likely to be included in the short-term continuing resolution is raising alarm in Washington, however. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report this week indicating that if the nation’s debt ceiling is not increased by Congress, the U.S. Treasury will be unable to borrow additional funds and will run out of cash in the first part of March 2018. The U.S. Treasury separately urged Congress to increase the debt ceiling limit by the end of February. Without an increase of the ceiling, the U.S. would run the risk of defaulting on its loans.

Congressional leaders are reportedly viewing the debt ceiling increase with consternation and prefer to tie the ceiling increase to another must-pass measure such as a government funding measure. At this time it is unclear, however, if the ceiling increase will be addressed next week.

With few days remaining before another government shutdown, Congress will be hard-pressed to pass another short-term funding measure and, eventually, address persistent big ticket items including a longer-term government funding measure, the debt ceiling limit, and DACA.