At this time, Congress does not have a deal to fund federal agencies past next Thursday night, and the current Continuing Resolution (CR) expires February 8 at midnight. The House of Representatives is currently scheduled to be in session only four more days over the next week-and-a-half due to congressional retreats for legislators to craft their agendas for the remainder of 2018.
House Republican leadership plans to vote on the Fiscal Year 2018 Defense Appropriations bill (H.R. 695) later today which would provide for increased defense spending, but only exempt defense spending from the sequester budget caps. The measure is seen as a promise to certain members of the Republican caucus who voted in support of previous short-term spending measures, and who wish to raise federal spending only on the defense side, but not for non-defense spending and agencies. However, without an overall agreement on defense and non-defense spending levels, the bill is unlikely to pass the U.S. Senate, where 60 votes will be needed to address the sequester budget caps. Senate Minority Leader Schumer and House Minority Leader Pelosi continue to seek parity for defense and non-defense spending in the ongoing negotiations over Fiscal Years 2018 and 2019 budgets between the White House and Congress. Relief from sequestration is key for NTEU-represented agencies to allow for adequate agency budgets that will support programs and personnel.
At this point, it is likely that, at least one, if not two, more short-term spending bills (CRs) will be needed as lawmakers try to work out their ongoing budgetary and healthcare and immigration policy differences. In the meantime, NTEU sent a letter today to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) supporting their efforts to raise non-defense spending caps, but urging them to ensure that federal employees are not left paying for the increase in government spending. Federal employee pay and benefits could be targeted as a way ‘to pay for’ increasing the sequester budget caps, which require a change in law to alter.
As we once again face a government funding deadline and a possible shutdown, it is imperative that Congress and the administration work effectively together to keep the federal government open. Federal agencies and employees have had enough of short-term CRs and shutdowns, and need to be able to function with a workable budget. And, federal workers have taken more than their fair share of hits to their compensation.
I will keep you updated on further developments. Meanwhile, please visit the NTEU Legislative Action Center to learn more and see what you can do.