With only 4 days until funding runs out on 25 percent of the federal budget, it is still unclear how the story of the FY 2019 ends. It appears likely there will be a short-term extension this week but that is because of the funeral and ceremonies in honor of former President George H.W. Bush.
The President continues to threaten a partial government shutdown if he doesn’t get at least $5 billion for a down payment on a border wall. How this budget is finished will also likely dictate how many more days are left on the 115th Congress.
Although there are seven of 12 appropriations to complete it represents less than 75 percent of funding with both the Defense and HHS departments funded for the rest of the year. Despite the smaller amount, a government shutdown would cover the Department of Justice, Homeland Security, State Department and Commerce. It is not clear if the President has all 51 Senate Republicans on board for the $5 billion request let alone 9 Democrats to break a filibuster. Democrats have indicated a willingness to provide some increased border security funds, but that figure is usually set at $1.6 billion. In addition, any deal with Democrats would require the President to give something: security for Special Counsel Robert Mueller, enactment of a DREAMERS bill, support for the next census and no politicization of the questions (census is through the Commerce Department), action on the Saudi killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi or all the above.
The longer it takes the less time there will be to deal with other issues or legislation that could be cleared: an agriculture reauthorization—where progress has been announced, a reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), a bipartisan criminal justice reform package and other smaller issues.
The JJDPA, the main federal law that sets standards and protections for youth in state juvenile justice programs, is long overdue for reauthorization. The House passed their version of the JJDPA, H.R. 6964 and is seen as the best vehicle for action. This version contains the compromise language between the House and the Senate but does not include reauthorization of the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA). Advocates are asking people to tell their Senators to pass H.R. 6964: bit.ly/act4jjdpa
There are also some other partisan issues Congressional Republicans may want to tackle because they have little or no chance to pass in their current form in the new Congress: a new tax cut package of nearly three hundred pages introduced by out-going Ways and Means Chair Congressman Kevin Brady (R-TX), the President’s version of a NAFTA re-write but this one seems certain to now be delayed until the next Congress.
One remaining possibility is that the Congress could punt and simply do a CR that would extend flat funding into 2019 but that has the disadvantage for Democrats of potentially losing increased funding that was agreed to last March and for Republicans turning that decision over to a new Congress with a House led by Democrats.