Government Shutdown Averted…For Now

This week marks another point in time for the 118th Congress where lawmakers have managed to avoid yet another potential government shutdown. The current short-term continuing resolution (CR) funding the federal government was set to expire at 11:59 p.m. on November 17. All eyes were on Capitol Hill over the past week as party leaders scrambled to find a path forward on a funding package. Last weekend, House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) floated a unique approach in the form of a “laddered” CR. This approach would divide funding the federal government into two tranches. The first would provide funding for four appropriations bills (Agriculture, Energy and Water, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and Transportation and Housing and Urban Development) until January 19, 2024. The eight remaining funding bills would be extended to February 2, 2024.

Despite the unusual structure of the CR, the Speaker’s proposal is noteworthy for a couple reasons. First, it would avoid the typical holiday-season tradition of adopting a massive omnibus spending deal that usually leaves members just days to review thousands of pages of bill text before leaving town. Second, it serves as a clean extension of funding because it does not include any of the more controversial provisions sought by both sides of the aisle, e.g., funding for Ukraine or Israel, border provisions, spending cuts. But the deal essentially buys more time for lawmakers to hopefully agree on a funding deal in early 2024 to address the rest of the federal fiscal year.

On Tuesday, the House passed the measure in a strong bipartisan vote, and the Senate passed it Wednesday. Despite criticizing the laddered approach, Senate leaders and the White House already indicated support for the approach because it is a clean extension.