January 17, 2018 Federal Policy Update

No Budget Deal In Sight 
Another CR or Shutdown by Week’s End


As n4a reported last week, the month-long continuing resolution (CR) currently keeping the government open will expire in two days on January 19. Congress pushed off final spending decisions back in December in the hopes of getting a bipartisan budget deal to raise discretionary spending caps. Unfortunately, no such agreement has been reached, forcing Congress either to pass another short-term CR by midnight on Friday or force a government shutdown. 

Why is there no budget deal?

Republicans and Democrats don’t agree on how much relief should be sent to defense programs and how much should go to all the other discretionary (or non-defense discretionary, NDD) federal programs. Previous bipartisan budget deals to raise the caps that were created in the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA) included parity between the two categories—a top priority for Democrats—but with a Republican White House, congressional Republicans are pushing harder for more of the money to go to defense programs. 

Until Congress agrees on the primary issue of how much relief to provide and how to divvy it up, they can’t move on to finalizing the 12 annual appropriations bills for FY 2018. That’s why a fourth CR—lasting until mid-February—will be considered by Congress this week, giving them more time for negotiation. 

Is this just about the budget?

No, other important issues being considered by Congress have complicated the situation. Since Republicans have to secure some Democratic votes in the Senate to ensure passage, other must-pass or should-pass legislation are now in the mix as bargaining chips. The most visible example is that Democrats want to secure a bipartisan immigration deal before the next budget vote and so may withhold their support of the next CR if it doesn’t include protections for the “dreamers.” The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is set to expire in March unless Congress acts.

And now the House Republican leadership has included a Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) reauthorization into the next CR to gain Democratic support (which they may need if fiscal conservatives balk at another CR). 

n4a and other aging and disability groups are still pushing for inclusion in the CR (or final budget deal) of the Medicare extenders, which includes a two-year extension of the low-income Medicare outreach and enrollment (MIPPA) funding—and ideally would include reauthorization of Money Follows the Person. 

While most lawmakers hope to avoid a government shutdown and are counting on deadline pressure to force a deal, the risk of a shutdown remains. 

What happens next?

House leaders are expected to bring a fourth FY 2018 CR to the floor tomorrow that would continue discretionary spending as is through February 16. As previously mentioned, it includes a CHIP reauthorization. It is currently unclear if Republicans will need Democratic votes to pass the CR; it’s still being “whipped” by party leaders and won’t be brought to the floor until they are sure they have enough votes. 

Hopefully, the CR would then be swiftly passed by the Senate, averting a shutdown. 

However, the complicated politics and policy maneuverings happening right now in Washington make it difficult to be certain a shutdown will be avoided. n4a is monitoring the situation closely and will keep members apprised as we learn more. 

What should advocates do now?

And as our December 4 Alert detailed, advocacy is still needed to secure the Older Americans Act Title III B Supportive Services increase called for in the House spending bill (a $14 million boost) and the continued funding for SHIP in the Senate version (vs. the House’s elimination of the program), so please continue to press your lawmakers in both chambers! We can’t let up our advocacy until the ink is dry on those final appropriations levels!

Use the January 19 CR expiration as an excuse to reach out to your Senators and Representatives. Urge them to strike a bipartisan budget deal to raise the arbitrary budget caps, alleviating—at least to some degree—the continued erosion of critical domestic discretionary programs like the Older Americans Act. Then use our Alert to push for our spending priorities for this fiscal year! 

This Legislative Update is an n4a membership benefit. For more information about these and other federal aging policy issues, please contact n4a’s policy team: Amy Gotwals (agotwals@n4a.org) and Autumn Campbell (acampbell@n4a.org), 202.872.0888.

View this Legislative Update as a PDF.