The Trump administration has begun preparing for a government shutdown that could begin next week, even as congressional negotiators work to finalize a preliminary agreement to keep agencies open.
The formal process in which the Office of Management and Budget instructs agencies to “review and update orderly shutdown plans” is required by OMB policy a week before a lapse in appropriations could occur “regardless of whether the enactment of appropriations appears imminent.” Agencies will be forced to close April 29 absent congressional action.
“While we do not expect a lapse, prudence and common sense require routine assessments to be made,” OMB Director Mick Mulvaney said in a statement. OMB added the chance of a shutdown appeared to be low and the administration believes one “should not and will not occur.”
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OMB added the requirement in 2016, saying it would hold a teleconference with agency senior leaders at the one-week mark before a potential shutdown to go over planning details. After the 2013 shutdown, OMB required agencies to update their shutdown contingency plans at least every other year. Most agencies last updated their plans in September 2015 before Congress passed an 11th-hour deal to keep the government open, though some posted their shutdown procedures in December 2016 before President Obama signed the current continuing resolution. OMB said it did not expect many changes to the plans this time around.
The contingency plans spell out what agency activities would continue during a shutdown and which employees would be required to report to work to protect life or property, and which employees would be sent home on unpaid furlough. OMB will continue to hold follow-up calls with agencies “on a periodic basis” until appropriations are passed or a shutdown occurs and it instructs agencies to begin sending furlough notices.
While lawmakers in both parties have expressed optimism they will reach an agreement on an omnibus bill to fund all agencies through September, the end of fiscal 2017, the White House could throw a wrench into plans by taking a hard line on its funding priorities.
Trump in February asked for an extra $30 billion for the Defense Department to spend in fiscal 2017 and $3 billion for the Homeland Security Department. The DHS money would go toward the U.S.-Mexico border wall and a ramp up in border security and immigration enforcement. Democrats have threatened to shut down the government if the spending bill includes appropriations for those issues. Senate Republicans appeared to have capitulated to the threat, indicating they would deal with the administration’s supplemental request separately from the regular appropriations bill.
Mulvaney, however, told the Associated Press on Thursday any spending bill should have funding for the wall. He also said they wanted preliminary funding to begin hiring Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, noting “elections have consequences.”
“We know there are a lot of people on the Hill, especially in the Democratic Party, who don't like the wall, but they lost the election,” Mulvaney told AP. “And the president should, I think, at least have the opportunity to fund one of his highest priorities in the first funding bill under his administration."
Throughout the campaign, Trump insisted the Mexican government, not the American taxpayer, would pay for the wall. Still, the budget director could advise Trump to play hardball, as he recently said the consequences of a shutdown “have been blown out of proportion.” Mulvaney indicated the administration may be willing to make a deal to provide funding for the Democratic priority of subsidizing insurance companies that cover low-income Americans if the Democrats relent on wall spending.