Today (Tuesday, January 16) marks the 108th day of the FY 2018 fiscal year without a budget and it looks that that number will continue to increase by this time next week. Even if there is a deal this week it will require a fourth CR to allocate whatever funds that are agreed upon. That CR could go well into next month, possibly February 23, or even into March to allow one final omnibus bill to wrap up FY 2018 before it ends in September. That is the best-case scenario. The reality may be worse.
The CR runs out on January 19, 2018 and the budget negotiations are all wrapped together with DACA, other immigration issues, various reauthorizations including CHIP and Home Visiting. DACA seems to be key. Democrats would like to see it all wrapped together as a guarantee they don’t get a presidential back-out. Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WS) has said he doesn’t want a joint appropriations-DACA package.
The likelihood of a joint DACA and budget deal looked more likely last week until Thursday. Six senators were negotiating a DACA deal with some additional immigration issues with some participants claiming they had reached a deal. That process was thrown into disarray later Thursday, January 11, because of the President’s comments that were forcefully denounced by many (but not all) as racist.
So as the week starts it is an open question whether there will be a shutdown, another short CR kicking the can down the road or a cross-cutting deal on all issues.
When the budget deal is reached it will likely cover raising the budget caps for both this year, FY 2018 and FY 2019 which starts on October 1, 2018. Some conservatives are getting nervous about what they see as an urgent need to raise the caps on Defense Department spending. Not only do they want significant increases they also see the continual CR’s as weakening the Defense Department’s ability to run its programs and the military. But that problem is more universal across the government as agencies and departments across the federal government cannot be certain of which programs are to be cut, increased or frozen.
Even though a final budget will not be in place by the first week of February, many people in Washington are anticipating that the President will still move forward with a FY 2019 budget proposal despite not knowing what the FY 2018 budget baseline will be. Formally the budget is supposed to be released on the first Monday of February shortly after the President gives his State of the Union address. It also is looking less likely that Paul Ryan will get another budget resolution to cut entitlements because the Senate leadership seems less willing to attempt such an effort in an election year. Instead it’s likely the House may make a solo effort at the cuts or eliminations in areas such as SSBG, Medicaid and SNAP. It is looking more likely that when the next fiscal year of 2019 starts on October 1, it will be funded with a CR extending until after the November 2018 elections.