Shutdown 2.0 appears unlikely

Feds worried about a replay of the 2013 standoff that led to a two-week lapse in the government's spending authority shouldn't plan on another round of shutdown beards.

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The House of Representatives appears poised to pass a mix of continuing resolutions for some appropriations and a package of new appropriations for other departments, a package that has been dubbed the "cromnibus" -- a combination of CR and omnibus.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said Dec. 4 that the package of 12 bills will be filed Dec. 8, giving lawmakers a few days to pass the bills and send them to the White House before Dec. 11, when funding for the government is set to expire.

One sticking point is funding for the Department of Homeland Security. Rogers said the new DHS appropriation would expire fairly soon -- perhaps sometime in February. This would give conservatives opposed to the recent executive order on immigration an opportunity to express their displeasure, and re-open DHS funding once Republicans have control of both houses of Congress. The other appropriations would run through the remainder of fiscal 2015.

This plan could be derailed by a caucus of mostly Tea Party-affiliated lawmakers, who want to use the appropriations deadline as a means of rolling back the executive order, which gives an estimated 4 million to 5 million people protection from deportation proceedings, and a path to legal status.

Republican leaders in Congress said House Democrats could make up any shortfall. "I expect we'll have bipartisan support to pass the omnibus appropriation bill," Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in his weekly press conference Dec. 4.

In the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has indicated support for the "cromnibus," saying, "that would be a big accomplishment if we could get a bill over here that would fund all the appropriations subcommittees except for one." Some Republicans, notably Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), have hinted at a more confrontational approach that could lead to a shutdown, but the success of such an effort appears unlikely. Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who will take over leadership of the Senate in the next Congress, recently said, "We need to quit rattling the economy with things that are perceived by voters as disturbing."

White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters on Dec 3 that "a full-year funding proposal for the full federal government is what Congress is responsible for doing and it’s what we believe they should do."

Earnest did not signal a possible veto for a package that limited funding for DHS through early 2015, although the White House did issue a veto threat of a separate bill aimed at defunding the executive order, a measure the Senate is not going to take up in any case. Any new funding measure for DHS that restricted spending on the program would likely face the same fate early next year.

Top federal managers aren't acting like a shutdown is in the offing. In September 2013, with two weeks to go before the federal government's spending authority was set to expire, the Office of Management and Budget sent a memo to agency heads on how to cope with a shutdown. The memo warned that "prudent management requires that agencies be prepared for the possibility of a lapse."

This year, no such memo has been issued. An OMB spokesperson didn't respond to an email from FCW asking whether one was in the works. But OMB Director Shaun Donovan said at an event on Dec. 3 that chances for a shutdown are "low."

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