NAICU Washington Update

Deadline Looms; Government Shutdown Possible

September 19, 2013

Updated September 20, 2013, 1:00 p.m.

As the clock ticks down to the beginning of Fiscal Year 2014 on October 1, Congress needs to pass a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the federal government temporarily funded, in the absence of finalized appropriations bills. What Congress is doing instead, is planning a series of votes on legislation sent back and forth between the House and Senate to gain political points before developing an actual bill that could be approved and sent to the president. There is no guarantee that a real bill will get done in time, thus a government shutdown looms as the worst case scenario.

The House leadership has had a hard time balancing its desire for a straight extension of FY 2013 funding, with its conservative wing’s push for a vote on defunding the Affordable Care Act (ACA) (aka “Obamacare”), a lower spending total, and having enough votes to pass a CR.

This morning, the House passed (230-189) a resolution that would provide continuing FY 2013 funding for the government until December 15, and include language to defund the ACA. When this bill is received in the Senate, action could go two ways – the Democratic majority could strip the ACA language and pass a clean CR with a simple majority, then send it back to the House; or the Republican minority could filibuster the proposal to remove the ACA language, which would force the Democratic majority to find Republicans to support 60 votes to stop the filibuster, remove the language, and send it back to the House.

If and when the bill comes back to the House, the leadership faces another hurdle with the spending total. Continuing FY 2013 funding amounts to $988 billion, but conservatives want to use the CR to lower spending to $967 billion, which reflects further sequestration cuts. Because 59 members of the Republican caucus support this option, leadership will need Democratic votes to pass its version to avoid a government shutdown. It is uncertain how many Democrats would support a straight extension CR; avoid a government shutdown; and be perceived as helping Republicans.

Senate Democrats will not support a CR at $967 billion. In fact, they have been working on FY 2014 appropriations with a total of $1.058 trillion, which represents the restoration of sequestration cuts.

Getting through these votes over the next week will be telling of how Congress will deal with the remaining work on FY 2014 appropriations, and the looming debt ceiling debate later this fall.

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