Congress Faces a Rocky Road to November

Yuval Rosenberg

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) stand during a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony honoring former Senate majority leader Bob Dole (R-KS) on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 17, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

The news headlines may be dominated by stories about President Trump, North Korea, trade wars and the special counsel investigation into Russian interference in U.S. elections, but budget expert Stan Collender points out in a new blog post that Congress and the White House still have a fairly long list of basic legislative responsibilities to tackle over the coming months — like the 12 appropriations bills for fiscal 2019 — and relatively little time to do it.

The result, given the political dynamics on Capitol Hill these days, is that another continuing resolution will likely be needed to fund the government and keep it from shutting down just weeks before the November elections. And the politics of such a funding bill are likely to get messy, Collender writes: “because CRs can be filibustered, that will give Senate Democrats influence over a short-term funding bill that, with their changes, isn’t likely to be acceptable to the House Freedom Caucus or the White House.”

Also, the president might view a continuing resolution as an opportunity to exert some leverage in his efforts to get funding for a border wall with Mexico. “Add to that the extreme displeasure from conservative commentators after he signed the 2018 omnibus appropriation in March and the fact that healthcare and immigration are hot button issues for the White House, congressional Republicans and Democrats, having a CR in place in time to prevent a government shutdown has to be considered anything but certain.”

Bloomberg’s Jonathan Bernstein says he’d be surprised if Congress doesn’t pass a temporary funding bill to avoid any spending-bill drama until after the elections, but Collender may well be right that “even if a continuing resolution is enacted by October 1, the road to get there will be anything but smooth.”

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