Once again, we find ourselves in a situation where the government is open at the time of this writing and the government may be closed by the time you read this. But the Senate has reached an agreement and a deal is on the table for the House to accept.
What’s the deal?
The government is operating under a continuing resolution through February 8th. The House passed a bill earlier in the week, which would keep the government open. The Senate didn’t like the bill (largely due to defense spending), so they changed it and it needs to go back to the House for passage. Highlights in the agreement reached by Senate leaders include:
- A measure that would keep the government open until March 23rd
- Increase investments in domestic programs and the military by roughly $300 billion over the next two years ($128 billion for domestic programs and $160 billion for defense)
- Extend funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program for 10 years
- $80 billion in disaster relief funding
- $6 billion toward opioid and mental health treatment
- $5.8 billion toward the Child Care and Development Block Grant
- $4 billion toward the Veterans Administration to rebuild and improve veterans hospitals and clinics
- $20 billion toward infrastructure, including highways, water, wastewater, and rural broadband
- $4 billion toward college affordability programs for police officers, teachers, and firefighters
- $7 billion in funding and a two-year reauthorization for Community Health Centers
Is this a big deal?
Yes, the agreement made by the Senate suspends the debt limit (the total amount of money that the federal government can borrow to meet existing legal obligations like Social Security and Medicare benefits, and military salaries), until March 2019. This essentially means that Congress can spend what it wants between now and then, and they won’t have to worry about voting on the debt ceiling again until after the mid-term elections.
Running the government on a series of continuing resolutions is also a big deal. As noted in a previous blog, it takes resources from administrative agencies to create shutdown plans and then to hurriedly spend money when it is approved. Once passed, this will be the fifth Continuing Resolution (CR) that the government is under since the start of the FY18 fiscal year on October 1st. Unfortunately, governing under a CR has become par for the course. An analysis conducted by Roll Call of Congressional Research Service data, Congress has averaged roughly 5.5 CRs per year since FY1998.
How can you deal?
In the game show, “Let’s Make a Deal” (both the original and the reboot), contestants try to win cash and prizes by making deals and trades – similar to what lawmakers do. By staying informed, sharing or retweeting information and taking action when asked via our Legislative Action Center, you can be a part of the deal making process, and without having to wear a wacky costume.