Hoyer Says Continuing Resolution Will Be Necessary to Avoid Another Shutdown

September 6, 2019 by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON – House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said Thursday that a continuing resolution will be necessary to keep the government funded past Oct. 1 and prevent the second shutdown in less than a year.

In a letter to House members published on the Dome Watch App late Thursday afternoon, Hoyer said he expects the House to consider a clean resolution to keep the government funded the week of Sept. 16.

“While the House did its work and sent 10 appropriations bills to the Senate, covering 96% of government funding, I am disappointed that the Senate failed to introduce a single appropriations bill for the first time in more than three decades,” Hoyer lamented.

“As we wait for them to complete their work so that we can begin conference negotiations, a continuing resolution will be necessary to prevent another government shutdown like that one we experienced earlier this year, which harmed thousands of American families,” he said.

Separately, Hoyer told the Federal News Network that any continuing resolution approved by the House would certainly be short-term, meaning “no more than 60 days” in duration.

That could set the stage for yet another battle over government funding in early December.

Once the House reconvenes Sept. 9, lawmakers will have just 13 legislative days on Capitol Hill before taking another two-week break. That’s the window for a budget agreement.

After that, there will only be 37 days during which both chambers will be in session between now and the break and the end of the calendar year to tackle several other thorny issues.

The last, partial government shutdown began in late December 2018, and continued for a record 35 days, ending only on Jan 25.

As Hoyer said, the House actually passed 10 of its 12 annual funding bills, doing so by June 30. Only the homeland security and legislative bills remain on the House to-do list.

The Senate, by contrast, passed not one funding bill, waiting for the White House and Congressional leaders to forge a two-year budget agreement. That didn’t happen until Aug. 2, by which time Congress’s annual August recess was getting under way.

The deal President Donald Trump signed suspended the debt ceiling through July 2021 — removing the threat of a default during the 2020 elections — and raised domestic and military spending by more than $320 billion compared to existing law over the next two fiscal years.

However, rather than removing the possibility of a government shutdown, it merely set spending levels for House and Senate appropriators to strike their own deal to keep the government going.

Last month, Hoyer told reporters that he planned to speak with Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., chair of the House Appropriations Committee, and Senator Richard Shelby, R-Ala., chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, “and urge them to do everything they can between now and Sept. 30 … to see if we can come to an agreement.”

The Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to start voting on legislation on Sept. 12, and Senate Republicans reportedly believe they can pass most if not all of the government funding measures by the end of the month.

But even if the Senate is able to pass legislation before Oct. 1, they would still need to work out a broader agreement with the House.

“I think that we can get to an agreement on most of the bills,” Hoyer said in August.

Debate over the homeland security appropriations bill, which ultimately held up negotiations last year and led to the 35-day government shutdown, will likely be divisive again this year.

Missing the October 1 deadline to enact all 12 appropriation bills is not unusual; in fact, that deadline has not been fully met since fiscal year 1997, according to the Peter G. Peterson Foundation.

Since 1998, 117 continuing resolutions have been enacted by Congress.

“Funding the government for a full year is preferable to using a CR because it allows government agencies to plan appropriately and match their resources with their responsibilities,’ the Peterson Foundation says on its website. “Predictability benefits the economy by providing certainty about government actions.”

The foundation also goes on to note the potential impact of another government shutdown — slower economic growth, a rise in unemployment, and higher borrowing costs for businesses.

An S&P Analysis found that a shutdown could reduce economic activity by as much as $6.5 billion per week.

While the Senate works through its funding bills, Hoyer wrote that while waiting for the Senate to work through its funding bills, the House will take up H.R. 1423, legislation that would eliminate forced arbitration in employment, consumer, and civil rights cases., and it will consider H.R. 3106, the Domestic Terrorism DATA Act, which has passed out of the Homeland Security Committee.

Among other things, the DATA Act would require the FBI, Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security to produce an annual, unclassified joint report that provides the following: data on domestic terrorist incidents; assessments, investigations, indictments, prosecutions, and convictions on domestic terrorism charges.

“We will also address a number of items that expire on September 30th, including the National Flood Insurance Program, authorization of the Export-Import Bank, and a number of health programs,” Hoyer wrote.

The Leader said he also expects the House to go to conference on the National Defense Authorization Act and to consider additional legislation addressing the humanitarian crisis at the border, following up on legislation it passed in July.

“Following the tragic mass shootings that occurred over August in El Paso, Dayton, Midland and Odessa, House Democrats continue to urge Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to allow a vote on H.R. 8, which requires universal background checks and is supported by the overwhelming majority of Americans. While we wait for the Senate to act on this commonsense measure, next week the Judiciary Committee will mark up additional gun violence prevention legislation that the House could consider this work period,” he wrote.

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