Why a no-drama government shutdown would be NBD

Why a no-drama government shutdown would be NBD - Politics - News

The Drama-Free Government Funding Saga: A Temporary Lapse in Funding for Parts of the Federal Government

The complex and intricate process of funding the United States government for the fiscal year that is almost halfway over is finally approaching its conclusion, but not without some potential delays. While it’s important to note that this is not a government shutdown in the traditional sense, some parts of the federal government may experience a brief lapse in funding after 11:59 p.m. ET on Friday, March 24, 2023.

Despite indications that the final departments of the federal government will secure full-year funding shortly, this temporary lapse in funding could still have a minimal impact on government operations. House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) aims to help expedite the legislative process by requesting a waiver of the 72-hour rule, allowing for a vote on the funding package in the House as early as Friday. However, the Senate must also clear its procedural hurdles, and assuming no significant delays, they could vote over the weekend.

Given the importance of ensuring that critical government functions continue uninterrupted, it’s understandable why House Speaker Mike Johnson wants to get this done by the weekend. However, it is important to remember that brief government funding lapses like this are not unprecedented. In 1982, funding for the government lapsed due to a lack of time to pass the bills before the fiscal year’s end. Yet, lawmakers returned to work the following day with minimal disruption.

The current potential temporary lapse in funding would occur almost six months late and could have a more significant impact due to the advanced stage of the fiscal year. However, previous research from the Congressional Research Service indicates that brief lapses (those lasting less than three days) often do not result in substantial disruptions, particularly when there is an expectation that the appropriations bills are imminent.

As Republicans take control of the House for the first time since January 2023, this is the first opportunity for them to make their mark on spending bills. However, neither the House nor the Senate was able to pass their 12 appropriations bills on time in January. Instead, they agreed to a short-term extension. The Republican hardliners within the party were disappointed that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) couldn’t secure more concessions from Democrats, who controlled the Senate. The right wing of the party ultimately ousted McCarthy, and it took three weeks for Republicans to elect Johnson as his replacement.

Johnson then initiated a series of temporary funding bills while negotiations for full-year funding proceeded. Last-minute standoffs over border spending delayed the final product until Thursday, March 23, 2023.

The funding package includes six departments: Defense, Homeland Security, Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, State, and the legislative branch. The other six departments were funded through a separate bill that passed earlier in March. Johnson proposed this bifurcated process as a means to relieve some of the pressure on the process.

However, this approach is not the norm; appropriations committees in the House and Senate are supposed to work out bills for various federal departments separately. Instead, they cobble together their versions of the bill into larger bills that are passed by House and Senate leaders.

Republican leaders have announced some victories, including cuts to Pentagon diversity programs and IRS enforcement, among other things. The deal also boosts defense spending with pay hikes for service members but maintains most other spending at current levels.

Johnson acknowledged that they didn’t get everything they wanted, stating, “We got some of the things we wanted. We didn’t get everything we wanted.” Nonetheless, it will take time for lawmakers, reporters, and watchdogs to scrutinize the details of the bill.

The outcome of this process is not what many pundits predicted earlier when conservative factions within the Republican Party rejected a House speaker for collaborating with Democrats to keep the government open. Instead, Johnson has carried on in the footsteps of his predecessor, McCarthy, who has since departed from Congress.

If this package passes, the government will be funded for the rest of the year because Johnson agreed to pass yearlong funding bills with the help of Democrats. While some right-wing Republicans who ousted McCarthy are displeased, they have yet to organize an effort to remove Johnson. Regardless of any short-term funding lapse or not, this is a step towards governing.