Architect of the Capitol

Congress to Vote Early Next Week on Shutdown-Avoiding Measure

With just days left before the start of fiscal 2017, Senate likely will vote Monday on CR before it heads to the House.

A Senate vote to keep the government open past the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30 won’t happen until at least Monday.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on the floor Thursday offered what he called a “clean” continuing resolution that funds the government through Dec. 9. He said that members would have the next four days to review the short-term spending measure before any votes happen.

“It contains a significant down-payment on flood relief for many states, including Maryland, West Virginia, and Louisiana,” McConnell said. “And of course, it includes important resources to support our veterans and combat Zika.”

But Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski, the ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, urged Democrats to oppose the CR because it doesn’t contain emergency funds for the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. Mikulski also said Democrats objected to the continuation of a current measure that prevents the Securities and Exchange Commission from forcing companies to disclose political spending.

Mikulski, who represents 300,000 federal workers, said Thursday she wanted them to “know we are working very hard to keep the government open and avoid a shutdown or a slamdown.”

The Democrat said people in Flint, who have been waiting for more than a year for help related to the water crisis, “should be included in this continuing resolution,” which includes $500 million in emergency funds for Louisiana flood victims. “I want to be clear, we do want to help the people of Louisiana, but we do want to help the people of Flint,” Mikulski said.

McConnell said the CR he offered Thursday was “the result of many, many hours of bipartisan work across the aisle.” The CR also contains the full-year, fiscal 2017 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs spending bill.

The House is expected to take up the CR after the Senate votes on it early next week. “The resolution is not perfect, but it is clean, responsible, and will ensure we meet our nation’s current, critical needs,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., adding that it is “essential” that the government stays open. “I support this legislation, and it can and should be approved by Congress and sent to the president as soon as possible.”

Fiscal 2017 starts on Oct. 1, and Congress hasn’t finished work on any of the 12 spending bills funding federal agencies. The 11th-hour appropriations scramble has become the norm in Washington in recent years, resulting in a government shutdown in 2013. The 2016 presidential election hasn’t made the appropriations process any less complicated. The constant CRs have made it difficult for federal employees and contractors to make stable, long-term funding decisions on programs and contracts.  

Still, it’s expected that Congress will manage to pass a relatively clean CR just before the deadline next week, and avoid a government shutdown this time around.