CR to December 7 Awaits Signature; Negotiations Fail on 4-Bill “Minibus”

September 28, 2018

Congress has cleared a nine-week continuing resolution to fund parts of the federal government from October 1 through December 7, and President Trump must sign it by midnight Sunday night in order to avoid a partial shutdown of the federal government on Monday morning. The President is exepected to sign the bill into law at mid-day today, but at this point, his mercurial nature has led Congressional leaders not to rest easy until his pen actually completes his signature on the paper.

The enrolled bill was presented to the White House yesterday. The CR was appended to a mammoth $1.7 trillion spending package funding the Departments of Defense, Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education for fiscal year 2019 (H.R. 6157):

Regular OCO
Discretionary Discretionary Mandatory Total
Defense 606.5 67.9 0.5 674.9
Labor-HHS-Education 180.0 0.0 866.4 1,046.4
TOTAL 786.5 67.9 866.9 1,721.3

Combining the welfare state funding with the increased Pentagon funding was deemed necessary to get bipartisan support for the package in Congress, and since the extra Pentagon money was also a top Trump priority, combining the CR with the bill was seen as a way to prevent the president from shutting down the government because the U.S.-Mexico border wall has not been funded yet.

Presidential signature of the package will provide the Department of Transportation and other agencies with 18.63 percent of each enacted fiscal year 2018 appropriation (68 days of CR divided by 365). FY18 appropriations designated as emergencies (like last year’s hurricane relief) are not extended by the CR. Once the CR is signed into law, the Office of Management and Budget will issue a bulletin apportioning the funding and guiding agencies in how to distribute the money (see last year’s bulletin for an example).

For the highway program, this means that the Federal Highway Administration will shortly be distributing an obligation limitation on the federal-aid highways program of $8.24 billion (18.63 percent of FY18’s $44.234 billion).

It is uncertain what will happen to the general fund supplements for the highway, mass transit, and airport grant programs under the CR. These supplements totaled $4.36 billion in FY18, and 18.63 percent of that would be $812 million. Since that money was somewhat of a surprise, added to the appropriations bill at the last minute after the February 2018 bipartisan budget deal flooded the Appropriations Committees with extra cash, it is not clear if DOT will wait for a full-year appropriations bill to be enacted to make the money available.

The House of Representatives is leaving town today and has canceled the scheduled session for the first two weeks of October. The House won’t come back until November 14, after the midterm elections. The House is leaving before conferees could reach agreement on another four-bill “minibus” spending package that includes the Transportation-HUD bill as well as the Agriculture, Financial Services/General Government, and Interior-Environment bills.

Negotiators were very close, having agreed to basically all dollar amounts in all of the bills except FSGG, but environmental policy provisions in the Interior bill, and a few other disagreements, meant that the conference committee could not conclude. A resolution must now wait until at least late November.



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