- The White House and Congress secured a temporary spending fix in the eleventh hour last week.
- But that runs only through the next three weeks, setting up another critical deadline.
- Without an agreement on border security, lawmakers will either have to pass another short-term bill to fund the government or risk a Christmas shutdown for the second year in a row.
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The White House and Congress secured a temporary spending fix in the eleventh hour last week, but it left the country poised to face what has become a very familiar dilemma in Washington.
The Trump administration and Democrats have sparred over border security for more than a year, preventing the passage of the dozen annual spending bills needed to fund the government. If that issue isn’t resolved by December 20, lawmakers will have to pass another so-called continuing resolution or allow another government shutdown.
The latter would force a number of federal agencies to shutter just before Christmas — for a second year in a row. Around the same time in 2018, the same fight led to longest partial government shutdown in history. It closed nine of 15 Cabinet-level departments for 35 days, leaving hundreds of thousands of employees without pay.
President Donald Trump has demanded $5 billion to build a wall along the southern border with Mexico, which Democrats have refused to fund at all. He eventually declared a national emergency and diverted money from the Pentagon to fund the project in moves that were later challenged in federal court.
Congressional appropriators reached a deal on levels for each of the dozen spending bills over the weekend, but that offered no guarantee that progress would be made anytime soon. Even though the two sides were able to compromise on broader top-line budget numbers in July, they have remained bitterly divided over how to distribute the $1.4 trillion package.
“We had the necessary commitments to move forward in good faith and avoid partisan riders that would stall the entire effort,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said last week. “Of course, that didn’t happen.”
The process could be further complicated by a high-profile impeachment inquiry against Trump, which stemmed from a whistleblower complaint that said he pressured Ukraine to investigate a 2020 campaign rival. That inquiry went public in hearings last week, and it could escalate at the same time as a border standoff.
Still, House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey has emphasized that the two issues would remain separate.
“I am always optimistic that we will be able to find agreement and get our work done,” she said.