UPDATE: On December 8, President Trump signed into law a continuing resolution (CR) (H.J. Res. 123) that will fund the federal government through December 22, 2017 and avoid a government shutdown. The legislation passed the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate on December 7 by votes of 235-193 and 81-14, respectively. NACo will provide further coverage of the CR's passage, as well as what to expect as the FY 2018 appropriations process moves forward, in the coming days.
With federal government funding set to expire on December 8, and with Congress still mired in negotiations over FY 2018 appropriations, congressional leaders have drawn up a temporary funding measure, known as a Continuing Resolution (CR), that would fund the federal government through December 22 and avoid a government shutdown. Congressional leaders have stated their goal is to pass another temporary funding measure before December 22 that would run through early 2018, at which point lawmakers would attempt to pass an omnibus FY 2018 spending package containing all 12 appropriations bills.
The annual appropriations process is critical to America’s counties, which support our residents through many federal programs that are annually appropriated by Congress. The nation’s 3,069 counties play a key role in administering federal programs and services at the local level, including the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, various law enforcement programs, public health and substance abuse initiatives, and the Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program. The recent practice of the federal government resorting to short-term funding extensions creates significant budgetary uncertainty for counties that rely on the annual federal appropriations process to effectively plan and implement their own balanced budgets.
According to House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frehlinghuysen (R-N.J.), a CR will allow more time for Congress to reach a deal on top line spending levels for FY 2018. At this point, the CR does not contain any policy riders, except for language that would authorize spending for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) through the end of December.
However, lawmakers are expected to attempt to include several policy riders in the next CR, currently planned for December 22, which could prove controversial. Some of these policies would meet promises leadership made to members during the tax reform debate, including bills that would support health care insurers and address the children of undocumented immigrants, or “dreamers.” Changes also potentially include adding $44 billion in aid for hurricane recovery and a permanent CHIP reauthorization. Congressional champions of the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program hope to attach reauthorization of SRS to either the CR or the upcoming omnibus. Other lawmakers have expressed interest in including language setting overall spending caps for the next two years and easing automatic cuts imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (P.L. 112-25). Perhaps the largest sticking point for any final FY 2018 funding measure is between lawmakers who are demanding a large increase in military spending and those who are pushing to ensure any defense spending increases are matched by equal increases to non-defense spending.
Some Democrats have hinted at the possibility of a shutdown if a fix for dreamers is not included – a prospect Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has dismissed, noting that current protections for dreamers do not expire until March 2018 at the earliest. Since 60 votes are required to pass government funding bills in the Senate, Republicans will need at least eight Democrats to vote for the CR and any future spending package. Additionally, Republican leaders must also retain the support of conservatives in the House who may oppose certain policy riders and wish to see specific cuts to government funding enacted.
NACo will continue working with congressional appropriators to ensure county priorities are maintained and the needs of counties and their residents are reflected in any CR and final omnibus spending package.