With the start of the 2019 Fiscal Year (FY) only a month away, Congress has been actively working on appropriations bills. The House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate have been working to pass agency appropriations bills in small groups, each called a “minibus,” after President Trump expressed displeasure in March at signing an omnibus appropriations bill, consisting of all 12 delayed FY18 bills, and stated that he would never do that again. The Senate remained in session over the August recess and passed legislation funding the Departments of Defense, Labor, Education, Health and Human Services (not FDA), and the Social Security Administration. To date, the House has passed six of the 12 appropriations bills, and the Senate has passed nine. However, of those appropriations bills that have passed both the House and the Senate, significant disagreements remain and need to be resolved before they can be sent to the President for enactment. And, some agencies have yet to have their respective bills be considered by both or by any chamber.
Failure to enact these bills could result in a government shutdown on October 1st unless Congress were to pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) that is enacted by the President in advance of this date. While CRs have been relatively routine in previous years, given the recent chaotic FY18 situation with its multiple CRs and shutdowns combined with a contentious Supreme Court battle brewing, and a short legislative window before the rapidly-approaching mid-term elections, the use of multiple CRs past the October 1st date is uncertain. Congressional leadership remains optimistic that at least some of the bills will be enacted by the start of the new fiscal year, however, it is widely speculated that final agreement on the majority of FY19 spending bills will not occur until after the mid-term elections take place. It is possible that some agencies could receive FY19 funding prior October 1st, with other agencies either operating under a CR or facing a shutdown.
In recent days following his actions to formally implement the January 2019 federal employee pay freeze as called for in his February 2018 budget request to Congress, the President has commented and tweeted about the issue of federal employee pay. While the President cannot act after September 1st to designate an amount for the across-the-board pay raise (which he set at zero last week), there is ample time for the President to work with legislators tackling the remaining appropriations bills outlined above, and for Congress to provide a pay adjustment for federal employees in January. While federal service is always deserving of fair pay, this economy with its low unemployment, robust private sector hiring, and increasing inflation, is simply not a time to leave federal employees without a raise. We are pleased that so much attention and pressure has been brought to bear on the pay issue, and that the White House’s misguided pay freeze policy is being challenged. To learn more, please visit the NTEU Legislative Action Center.
NTEU will continue to work with members of the House and Senate to secure adequate funding for agencies along with a 2019 pay increase, and to avoid a government shutdown and interruptions to agency operations and to employee pay. However, should a shutdown (full or partial) occur, NTEU will fight to ensure that all federal workers receive their paychecks in a timely manner.