House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., would like Congress to pass 2020 appropriations by the end of September, but concedes that is unlikely.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., would like Congress to pass 2020 appropriations by the end of September, but concedes that is unlikely. J.Scott Applewhite/AP

Lawmakers Expect a Stopgap Spending Measure to Avoid an October Shutdown

Despite the two-year budget deal, agencies are likely to receive a continuation of current spending levels well into the fall, Congressional aides say.

Despite a budget deal signed into law by President Trump this summer, agencies probably won't receive new appropriations by the start of the 2020 fiscal year. With current funding set to lapse on Oct. 1, lawmakers appear resigned to pass a continuing resolution to give themselves more time to iron out the details of line-by-line appropriations bills.

The two-year budget deal hammered out primarily between House Democrats and the White House in late July set top-line spending levels, but Congress still must approve a package of 12 funding measures—or pass a CR—to avoid another government shutdown before current appropriations expire. 

The House has passed most of the required annual spending bills for fiscal 2020, but lawmakers still must reconcile them with the Senate, which has yet to approve any appropriations bills for the upcoming fiscal year. The upper chamber delayed work on the spending bills until top-line funding levels were established and the deal was signed by Trump. The Senate Appropriations Committee is set to begin considering the legislation upon returning from recess next month. 

Mariel Saez, a spokeswoman for House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said the tight timeframe—lawmakers will have just three weeks upon returning from their summer break to keep agencies funded—has opened the door to a stopgap measure. 

“Mr. Hoyer’s preference is to fund the government in September, but the Senate, for the first time in decades, hasn’t marked up a single appropriations bill in subcommittee,” Saez said. “While the House has acted and wants to go to conference with the Senate on appropriations bills as soon as possible, there is a possibility that we will need a short-term CR to provide time for the Senate to do its work.” 

A second House Democratic aide was more resigned to the need for a continuing resolution. 

“Given how far behind the Senate is in processing appropriations bills, a CR will be necessary to avert a government shutdown,” the aide said. “A CR for all of government through late November or early December will provide a measure of certainty and allow Congress to complete its work.”

Included in the House-backed bills is a 3.1% pay raise for federal employees, which would mark the largest increase in a decade. President Trump has proposed freezing civil servants’ pay next year. The House will also have to negotiate over their proposals to boost agency hiring and block several key Trump administration initiatives. 

Saez said Democrats want to start that process immediately. 

“Mr. Hoyer continues to urge the Senate to mark up and pass their bills as quickly as possible,” she said, “so that we can go to conference and pass legislation to fund the government and prevent a shutdown.”