It’s that time of the year again: Lawmakers have about 10 legislative days to pass the FY 2019 appropriations bills to avoid a government shutdown. Despite the Senate taking a shorter recess in August to work on a series of spending packages, Congress will likely again miss its Sept. 30 deadline, which marks the end of the current fiscal year. To the Senate’s credit, floor action on the spending measures has been relatively efficient and drama-free. This year, Senate appropriators made a conscious effort to keep “poison-pill” policy riders from gumming up the annual process. To date, the Senate has amended and approved three “minibus” spending packages:
- First Minibus (H.R. 5895) – includes the following appropriations bills: (1) Energy-Water, (2) Milcon-VA, and (3) Legislative Branch
- Second Minibus (H.R. 6147) – includes: (4) Financial Services, (5) Interior-EPA, (6) Transportation-HUD, and (7) Agriculture
- Third Minibus (H.R. 6157) – includes: (8) Defense and (9) Labor-HHS-Education
Getting nine of the 12 annual spending bills out of the Senate is no small feat, but time is running out. Differences between the House and Senate bills must be resolved before they can be sent to the president for signature. The conference committee for the first minibus has yet to produce an agreement. Consequently, Congress will likely have to approve a short-term extension (known as a “continuing resolution” or “CR”) to keep the government open beyond Sept. 30.
One thing to keep an eye on is whether President Trump will carry out his earlier threat to shut down the government before the midterm elections in order to force appropriators to cough up $5 billion for his border wall. While House appropriators has set aside $5 billion in their Homeland Security spending bill for the wall, Senate appropriators has only provided $1.6 billion in its version of the bill.