When we last provided an update on the Fiscal Year 2019 Federal Budget, some sections had been passed into law, a large chunk of it was expected to move in a few days, and some key bills were anticipated to be left for after the mid-term elections. As it turns out, not all of that happened as expected.
The bills that were passed in September are still law. But the “large chunk,” which was an expected “minibus” of the Financial Services, Interior, Agriculture, and Transportation appropriations bills, didn’t move at the end of September as planned. There were an assortment of reasons why they stagnated but it sounds like most of those issues have been cleared up. But these bills are still waiting for Congress to send them to the President for his signature.
What is important are the bills that were anticipated to be taken up after the election. These are Homeland Security, Foreign Services, and, of most significance, Commerce, Justice, Science (or CJS). The CJS bill contains the research funding for NSF, NIST, and NASA. CJS is still being held up over concerns about the Mueller investigation, as well as disagreement about the enforcement of the Trump Administration’s immigration policies; so, nothing to do with research. Still, we’re caught up in larger political currents.
So, what happens now? This is where things get complicated. The current continuing resolution (CR) expires this Friday, December 7th; something has to be signed into law, either these bills or another CR, by then or the government will shut down. President Trump has sent mixed signals about his intentions. He has publicly said he wants $5 billion for border wall funding, and will not sign the outstanding funding bills if he doesn’t get it. Except, he has also repeatedly told Congressional Republicans, who don’t want a shut down, he will NOT shut the government down. To use a science metaphor: it’s Schrödinger’s budget right now, in that the government is both funded and not funded until reality collapses into whatever it’s going to be.
What’s our best guess? Given the disruption of President Bush’s funeral on Wednesday, a new CR is likely. The question is will it be for a week or two weeks. After that, it’s a good question about what happens. We have to wait and see; because, it’s complicated.
UPDATE: The House Majority Leader announced that votes for the week are cancelled and a two week continuing resolution will be passed by unanimous consent. That means the government will be funded through December 21st; that’s the new deadline.