No government shutdown as Senate passes funding bill

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With less than two hours remaining before another shutdown, the Senate voted to keep the government funded through April 28.

The Senate approved the House-passed continuing resolution to fund the government by a vote of 63-36 in the late evening of Dec. 9 -- the day the current appropriation was set to expire.

A group of Democratic senators from Republican-leaning states threatened to hold up the bill over the future of the Miners Protection Act, which is funded only through April 30 under the continuing resolution. Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Heidi Heitkamp (D.-N.D.) and others wanted to secure a full year of funding for the miners, but opted not to force a government shutdown.

While some in Congress had sought a full-year continuing resolution or a mix of stopgap bills and full agency appropriations, the election of Donald Trump as president changed the calculus for fiscal year 2017 funding.

The bill observes the $1.1 trillion discretionary caps under the Budget Control Act, and includes some new funding, including $872 million for the 21st Century Cures Act of 2016, funding for some homeland security and military activities and money to support the Joint Polar Satellite System programs at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The bill also includes a wavier that would allow retired Marine General James Mattis to serve as secretary of Defense in the Trump administration, despite having been on active duty within the last seven years. While many Democrats in Congress wanted to debate a Mattis waiver separately, there was no appetite to hold up must-pass funding legislation over this issue.

While the funding bill passed overwhelmingly in the House, and by a solid majority in the Senate, some Democratic lawmakers warned of a reckoning down the road, and the possibility of a future government shutdown.

"Now, difficult decisions will be postponed to the spring, when once again we will face the very real threat of a shutdown, requiring Republicans to work with Democrats to reach consensus on how best to prioritize our resources and maintain funding for key investments that serve the American people and build for the future," said Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the Democratic whip.

The Senate also leaves for the holidays without considering the Modernizing Government Technology Act, a House-passed measure to set up a governmentwide fund for IT modernization as well as individual accounts inside the 24 CFO Act agencies to reallocate existing funds to update legacy systems. Passage in the lame duck session seemed plausible just a few weeks ago, but support for the bill flagged after a Congressional Budget Office score pegged the cost of the bill at $9 billion over five years.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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