FY21 Annual Appropriations Update

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FY21 Annual Appropriations Update

Outside of COVID negotiations, there is next to nothing being discussed on Capitol Hill, with the exception of annual appropriations (the process by which the federal government funds itself). Federal fiscal year 2021 (FY21) starts on October 1, meaning Congress has 9 days left to reach agreement on a funding mechanism to avoid a federal shutdown. Neither the House nor the Senate made any real headway on funding bills (there are 12 separate funding bills that collectively fund the full government), meaning Congress is NOT on track to complete its funding work on time or in normal order. While part of this is due to the COVID pandemic, this is not a new phenomenon: Congress hasn’t completed the annual appropriations process on time and in normal order since the mid 1990s, and instead has relied on a ‘continuing resolution’, a policy that ‘kicks the can down the road’: it avoids a federal shutdown and keeps the federal government by continuing funding at the same/current level. Yes, sometimes there are anomalies or a small set of exceptions or additional funding, but in broad terms, a CR is straight level funding that just buys Congress more time to complete its (very basic) funding work.
 
2020 is proving no exception, with a CR all but certain. A week ago I would have said ‘the question is not if they’ll pass a CR but for how long: into the lame duck session or into the new calendar year’. While I still believe there is little appetite for a shutdown this year, especially so close to an election, this is 2020 and this is Congress, so don’t rule anything out. I think Congress will get their act together to adopt a funding bill, even just a short-term CR, if only to reduce the political fall out of a federal shutdown on top of the already partisan and contentious 2020 elections. So where do we stand?
 
Yesterday, House Democrats released a CR proposal that would level fund the federal government through December 11. The bill lacks the support of both Republicans and the administration, as well exemptions requested by the White House. This attachment provides a section-by-section description of the bill, which makes no changes to the FY20 education funding levels. The bill could go to the House floor as early as today or Wednesday. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and Speaker Pelosi had agreed to a ‘clean CR’, absent any contentious policy decisions. The exclusion of the White House exemptions and the Senate Republican-requested farm subsidies was explained by House Democrats as sticking to the idea of a clean CR and balanced by the exclusion of the Democrat priority of additional funding/authorization for school lunches at closed schools. The relatively straight-forward path the CR had last Thursday was completely rerouted after the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg; we’ll continue to monitor the federal funding situation. 
 

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