Budget

Shutdown continues, but quick end possibly in sight

Shutterstock image: U.S. Capitol at dusk.

As the government shutdown enters its third day, the Senate will begin key procedural votes at noon on Jan. 22 to temporarily restore funding. Those votes will come as many furloughed feds are finishing their four-hour shifts to wind down non-essential operations.

After a weekend of legislative negotiations, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced in the evening on Jan 21 a deal to allow a vote on a temporary continuing resolution through Feb. 8. That legislation could be passed in both chambers and signed into law the same day, allowing feds to go to work on Tuesday, and without any hiccups to employee pay.

For now, however, the lapse in appropriations remains in place. Non-essential and non-exempt employees who work a typical workweek are expected to show up Monday morning, but many will there for only a four-hour shift to turn in IT equipment, communicate with contractors, set up away messages on their voicemail and email systems and otherwise unwind operations.

Contractors are being advised by their trade group the Professional Services Council to report for work unless told otherwise. A shutdown guidance posted by the Department of Homeland Security's acting chief procurement officer contained the same message.

"If a contract will not be affected at the onset of the lapse in appropriations, DHS does not plan to provide any separate notifications or communications of that fact. Unless the contracting officer provides a formal notification to the contrary, all DHS contractors must continue to comply with all terms, conditions, requirements and deliveries specified in their contract(s)."

Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, explained on Fox News Sunday that notices went out to agency heads on Jan. 20 to apprise them of plans.

In a separate Jan. 19 radio interview with conservative news host Sean Hannity, Mulvaney said, "I found out for the first time last night that the person who technically shuts down the government is me, which is kind of cool."

Before being nominated to lead OMB, Mulvaney was a Tea Party Republican in the House and one of the group that advocated for a shutdown in 2013 rather than compromise on a funding bill that included funding for the Affordable Care Act.

Now that he's on the administrative side, Mulvaney is hoping for a quick end to the shutdown. He said he saw the possibility for a temporary fix, but cautioned on Fox News Sunday that, "if that doesn't happen, it could go several days because I think there's other Democrats who want to see the president give the State of the Union during a shutdown."

The deal being touted by McConnell comes with a promise to Democrats for a bill or other solutions to extend legal protections for young people brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents as small children. They were given protection from deportation enforcement under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

However, Senate Democrats are still pushing for action on bills to provide military pay and death benefits during the lapse in appropriations. It’s not yet clear whether Democrats will bite on a deal to buy three more weeks for negotiations.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who voted against the continuing resolution on Friday, applauded the proposal, which was crafted in part through his efforts.

"I'm very pleased to hear Majority Leader McConnell commit to the Senate that if we do not make a breakthrough on immigration by February 8th, the Senate will take the issue up under regular order," Graham tweeted

Even if the Senate does vote a fix for the DACA recipients, it's doubtful such a bill will pass or even get a vote in the House, where the Republican caucus has a much harder line on immigration. So it's possible that the three-week funding stopgap will lead to yet another shutdown, unless Democrats retreat from their position or the White House provides political cover for Republicans to support a compromise.

The political messaging from the White House so far has struck a stark note on this topic. The White House and congressional Republicans have accused Democrats of shutting down the government to benefit

"Democrats are far more concerned with Illegal Immigrants than they are with our great Military or Safety at our dangerous Southern Border," President Trump tweeted on Jan. 20. "They could have easily made a deal but decided to play Shutdown politics instead."

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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