Congress reconvenes Monday, and the entire federal government could be on an unscheduled vacation by the end of next week.
Yes, another government shutdown is looming.
Why? Because more than half way through the federal fiscal year, the Republican-controlled Congress has yet to pass any of the 12 appropriations bills required to fund the federal government. A stopgap spending measure approved at the end of 2016 expires at midnight on April 28.
That’s one week from today.
There hasn’t been any progress on the appropriations bills since the 115th Congress convened in January, so congressional leaders plan to offer up yet another continuing resolution to keep the federal government running without interruption for at least a week or two longer and, perhaps, until the end of the fiscal year in September.
Neither party wants a shutdown and, with single-party control of the legislative and executive branches of government, it would seem that getting a spending bill passed would be easy.
But we’re talking about Washington and, as Bloomberg View columnist Albert R. Hunt insightfully described the situation, all the elements of a debacle are in place.
In the House, the chasm between ultra-conservative Republicans and party leaders that thwarted GOP efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and delayed action on tax reform is bubbling up yet again. With the approximately three dozen members of the Freedom Caucus unlikely to support any spending bill, House GOP leaders are likely to be left hunting for votes from Democrats to get a continuing resolution passed.
Democrats also have leverage in the Senate, where legislation is still subject to a filibuster, meaning 60 voters are needed for approval. Republicans hold 52 seats in the Senate.
Democrats in both the House and Senate are objecting to President Donald Trump’s request for $1.5 billion toward construction of his proposed wall on the U.S.-Mexican border — that would be the wall that Mexico supposedly was going to pay for.
There’s also justifiable opposition from Democrats to the president’s proposals to defund Planned Parenthood, scale back the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and punish cities that don’t cooperate with the federal Immigrant and Customs Enforcement agency.
And new proposals to undercut Obamacare will only stiffen Democrats’ resolve to fight.
This will be a political test for the congressional leadership and also for the president, who marks his 100th day in office on April 29. Trump has had a rocky start. A government shutdown would be one more embarrassing failure.
To avoid that, Republicans ought to present a spending authorization without the border wall, without the attacks on Planned Parenthood and the consumer protection bureau and without sanctions for cities that don’t join federal immigration enforcement efforts. The GOP can bring those proposals up separately and, if the votes are there, pass them.
Americans don’t want another display of Washington inaction, but the clock is running out.