Here We Go Again
After five weeks of recess, both chambers of Congress will return to Washington, D.C., on September 9th. Committee work will restart, speeches will be made on the floor, and representative work for the American people will begin again. For anyone, returning to work can be an arduous undertaking, but for this first session of the 116th Congress it is set to be particularly so. As of the writing of this article, the Senate has yet to pass any appropriations bills to fund the federal government for Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20) and Congress has a little over three legislative weeks to avoid the second government shutdown of 2019.
Budget talks between Congress and the White House advanced with President Trump signing a budget deal into law on August 2nd. The bill allows for a $320 billion increase in government spending, suspends the debt ceiling through mid-2021, and increases military spending by $22 billion dollars. Importantly, the deal averts another round of sequestration. The agreed upon budget is only a topline figure – the real work must be completed in the committees of Congress.
Prior to the August recess, the House passed most of the required annual spending bills for fiscal 2020, including the Financial Services and General Government funding bill. The House-passed version includes a 3.1 percent pay raise for federal workers, which FMA strongly supports. The administration proposed a pay freeze for 2020, and it is unclear to what the Senate will agree. Part of the reason the Senate has yet to approve any appropriations bills is the chamber was waiting upon the White House to approve top-line funding levels. What happens next will depend largely on Senate leadership. To fund federal agencies, twelve separate appropriations bills, an omnibus, or a series of “mini-bus” bills will have to pass Congress, each directing the amount of funds agencies will be able to spend. Congress will have two options if it fails to pass traditional full-year appropriations: pass a continuing resolution or risk another shutdown of the government.
It is increasingly looking like FY20 will begin with a continuing resolution. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s (D-MD) office has signaled such. “While the House has acted and wants to go to conference with the Senate on appropriations bills as soon as possible, there is a possibility that we will need a short-term CR to provide time for the Senate to do its work,” said Mariel Saez, a spokeswoman for Hoyer.
Prior to the recess, fifteen Republican Senators wrote a letter to the administration urging it to avoid a continuing resolution. FMA strongly supports every effort to avoid CR’s, as they place undue burdens on federal managers by creating financial uncertainty for employees and agencies and force teams of feds to work without a proper budget. Feds deserve a fully funded government. However, while a CR is undesirable, a stopgap spending bill is certainly preferred over a government shutdown. Federal managers and feds at many agencies are still reeling from the last government shutdown, which lasted a record 35 days. Six months later, some feds and federal agencies have still not fully recovered.
Two government shutdowns in a single year would be catastrophic not only for the morale and employee engagement of the federal workforce, but also for the American people who rely on the services the government provides. FMA will roll up its sleeves and work with members of Congress and the administration to find common ground on FY20 funding for all federal agencies.
The views reflected in this colunm are those of FMA and do not necesssarily represent the views of FEDmanager.
Posted in Hear it from FMA