Government set to shut down this weekend

On September 29, 2023, in Appropriations, by David Elrod

The government is likely set for a shutdown this weekend as Congress has failed to pass a funding extension and significant differences remain on what an extension would include.

To avert a shutdown, both the House and Senate would need to either pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government for a short period or pass all 12 of its spending bills and reconcile them with each other.

So far, the House has passed four of its FY2024 individual spending bills: Defense, State and Foreign Operations, Homeland Security, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs.

The House passed three of those on Thursday, including Defense, State and Foreign Operations, and Homeland Security, but failed to pass its FY2024 Agriculture Appropriations bill. That bill failed by a 191-237 vote.

“NCC is disappointed that the FY24 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration appropriations bill failed last night to pass out of the House,” NCC President Mike Brown said of the vote. “As it is written, it contained support for a number of chicken producers’ priorities, including funding for export promotion programs, critical food safety and animal health priorities, and nullifies USDA’s controversial Packers and Stockyards rules that would dramatically increase costs and risks associated with contract chicken farming.”

Thus, the House now still must pass eight of its 12 appropriations bills, including FY2024 Agriculture Appropriations, before conferencing them with the Senate, in order to provide full FY2024 government funding.

Even during a government shutdown, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) inspectors are deemed “essential,” thus they will continue to perform their duties and functions to ensure the safety of America’s meat and poultry products even after the fiscal year ends and a shutdown occurs.

Meanwhile, the Senate has passed none of its individual appropriations bills.

As for a CR, House Freedom Caucus members on Friday will unveil a CR funding the government through October 31 that cuts funding for all federal departments except for Defense, Homeland Security, and the VA by very significant amounts. The House plans to vote on that CR on Friday, although it is highly unlikely to be acted upon by the Senate.

The Senate, on the other hand, has unveiled its own CR that would provide funding at nearly current levels through November 17. That CR could also include about $6.2 billion in aid to Ukraine and around $6 billion in additional natural disaster relief. It would also extend Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) authorization and food assistance program authorization that are set to expire along with the 2018 Farm Bill, which runs through FY2023.

The Senate’s CR is likely unpalatable to House Republicans, particularly House Freedom Caucus members, so the path forward regarding even temporary government funding remains unclear at this time.

Once a CR is agreed upon by the House and Senate, both chambers will still need to pass their appropriations bills and conference them to reconcile differences.

In the past, there have been instances where only one chamber passes their bills, either individually or combined into multiple “minibuses” or all combined into an “omnibus,” then both chambers would simply go straight to conference and agree upon a final set of bills.

It is unclear at this time if that is the route they plan to take, or whether each chamber passes all of their own 12 bills and then goes to conference.