government shutdown

Congress Agrees to Spending Deal to Avoid Holiday Government Shutdown

No dark public buildings for the holidays. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Aside from being impeached and all, Donald J. Trump is having a pretty good week, what with a big trade agreement, good economic news, and even in the impeachment arena, lockstep support from his party. And now it looks like he will avoid the development that last knocked his approval ratings down into the 30s, a government shutdown, as Roll Call reports:

Republicans and Democrats reached agreement “in principle” Thursday on $1.37 trillion in government funding, staving off the possibility of another shutdown just a week before spending is set to run out, according to Appropriations Committee leaders.

The deal — reached just hours after a meeting between Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey and Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby— ends months of tense negotiations that revolved around border wall funding.

“We have an agreement on all 12 [fiscal 2020] bills,” Lowey, D-N.Y., told reporters after meeting with her Appropriations counterparts.

Now since we are talking about the 45th president, no deal is safe until his signature is down on paper, and the bills implementing the deal (which are expected to be bundled into two or three packages for voting purposes) won’t be finalized until the weekend, just a few days before existing appropriations expire on December 20. Everyone remembers what happened last year, as The Hill notes:

Last year, a last-minute reversal on wall funding from Trump led to a 35-day shutdown starting in late December — the longest shutdown in the nation’s history.

There’s peril in the fact that Trump again did not get what he wanted in border wall money, though he will retain the authority to divert military construction funds to that purpose, according to Roll Call:

Appropriators plan to give the Trump administration $1.375 billion for border barrier construction, significantly less than the $5 billion the White House hoped to receive in new funding for the Department of Homeland Security, but the same amount Congress approved in fiscal 2019, according to a source familiar with the negotiations.

Congress also will not backfill $3.6 billion in military construction funds that the White House diverted earlier this year to the border wall, despite the administration pushing for that funding, the source said. Trump will be able to retain his ability to transfer funding from Pentagon accounts to the border wall, the source added.

Jitters over the possibility of another last-minute administration flip-flop were assuaged by the presence of Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin — who was central to the two-year overall budget deal approved last summer —instead of the budgetary brinksman Mick Mulvaney.

So once again, appropriators have managed to get enough back-scratching accommodations of each party’s pet causes, along with restraint on policy riders that operate as poison pills, to keep the lights on. Yes, there could be another appropriations crisis when the fiscal year ends on October 1, when the entire nation is likely to be gripped with the most intense partisan conflict in living memory. But for now, the election itself is likely to determine the priorities represented by all this spending.

Spending Deal Struck to Avert Holiday Government Shutdown