Government Funding Expires, But White House Expects ‘Short-Technical Lapse’

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., held up passage of a spending agreement. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., held up passage of a spending agreement. Senate TV via AP

Congress allowed appropriations to lapse Thursday evening, though agencies may be spared from closing their doors due to an imminent budget agreement.

An official in the Office of Management and Budget said the administration had prepared for funding to expire, but called the current situation a “short-technical lapse.” The lapse marked the second government shutdown in just three weeks, after agencies closed for three days last month.

The Senate had hoped to send the shutdown-averting bill to the House early Thursday afternoon by unanimous agreement, but Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., objected to that plan because it raises spending levels. Congress is now expected to send the budget deal, which includes a six-week continuing resolution and raises spending caps by $300 billion between fiscal years 2018 and 2019, to President Trump’s desk early Friday morning.

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“In terms of work for non-excepted employees tomorrow, it’s up to each agency,” the OMB official said. The official noted that all federal employees should plan to show up to work tomorrow, as even if Congress fails to approve a funding bill workers would report to their offices to initiate shutdown procedures. “Even those who are affected by this potential lapse will be able to come in for up to four hours to conduct an orderly shutdown." 

A memorandum sent to agency heads late Thursday by OMB Director Mick Mulvaney said he expected the shutdown to be short, but said agencies should prepare for one anyway. 

"Although we are hopeful that this lapse in appropriations will be of short duration, employees should report to work for their next regularly-scheduled tour of duty to undertake orderly shutdown activities," Mulvaney said. "We will issue another memorandum reopening government functions once the President has signed a bill providing for appropriations."

Paul delayed the spending agreement when he objected a plan to move the two-year budget deal attached to a stopgap appropriation on an expedited schedule.

"I’m not advocating for shutting down the government," Paul said on Fox News Thursday. "I’m also not advocating for keeping the damn thing open and borrowing a million dollars a minute." He acknowledged there was little he could do to keep the measure from eventually passing, but in the meantime "they're going to have to listen to me talk about it."

Paul did just that for hours Thursday night, much to the irritation of his colleagues.

“Do you want to be a senator that wants to make a point or you want to make a difference?” asked Sen. Thom Tillis, Paul’s Republican colleague from North Carolina.

Once the Senate is procedurally able to pass the spending bill early Friday, the measure will face an uncertain fate in the House. Many conservative House Republicans have said they will not support the bill due to its impact on federal deficits, which led House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to tell her colleagues in a letter Thursday they could sink the measure if they remained united: “The Republicans do not have the votes to pass this caps bill on their own.”

Pelosi objected to the bill because Congress has not yet found a solution for dealing with the status of immigrants whose protective status on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program will soon expire. She said she would not whip her caucus to vote against the measure, but would let them know why she would not vote for it.

“We cannot allow our success in one part of the discussion to diminish our leverage in another,” Pelosi said. “We have always said nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to."

Despite Pelosi’s concerns, lawmakers appeared confident Thursday evening the two parties would be able to cobble together a sufficient coalition to pass the bill.

Under the budget deal, a forthcoming omnibus spending bill would give appropriators an additional $63 billion for non-defense agencies, allocating a total of $579 billion for fiscal 2018. Defense spending would increase by $80 billion. In fiscal 2019, non-defense spending would increase by $68 billion to $597 billion.

Members of the Senate gave speeches throughout the day praising the agreement, with Republicans focusing largely on the increased military spending and Democrats praising the relief non-defense agencies will receive from the spending caps instituted by the 2011 Budget Control Act.

“Our middle class has suffered from a Congress that imposed a needless austerity on itself, limiting investment in jobs and education, infrastructure, scientific research and more,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on Thursday. “This budget deal puts that to an end as well.” On Wednesday when announcing the deal, Schumer said the measure would finally send the sequester caps to “the ash heap of history.”

Senate Democrats relented on their demand that a spending bill be linked to a DACA solution only after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., promised to hold a series of votes on a variety of proposals on the subject. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has promised only to bring to the floor a measure President Trump would sign, leaving Democratic leadership in that chamber in opposition to the spending agreement.

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