Shutdown Days 4, 5, and 6 Recap

The monthly jobs report for September, due out last Friday, has been delayed due the shutdown.

The House continued their effort to pass small continuing resolutions (CRs) on Friday (see Wednesday’s and Thursday’s recaps for more information). Measures passed on Friday include funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) (247-164) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for low-income Women, Infants and Children (the WIC program) (244-164). On Saturday, the House passed H.R. 3223, the Federal Employee Retroactive Pay Fairness Act, which would provide funding for furloughed federal workers once the shutdown is over. H.R. 3223 passed 407-0, with 24 Members not voting. This leaves eight additional limited funding bills waiting for a vote in the House. The Senate has not taken up any of these “mini CRs.”

On Saturday the House also passed a non-binding resolution to allow military chaplains to continue to provide religious services. On Saturday the Pentagon also ordered 400,000 furloughed civilian employees back to work.

The Senate was also in session this weekend.

Shutdown Day 3: Legislative Action Recap

On Thursday the House continued passing a series of limited continuing resolutions (CRs) to fund specific sections of the government. The House passed a resolution providing funding for veteran’s benefits by a vote of 259-157 and a bill to pay military reservists by a vote of 265-160. The House Rules Committee met yesterday to pass rules for 10 additional small CRs. The Senate has not acted on these “mini-CRs” – a few Republican Senators tried to seek unanimous consent for these bills yesterday but Democratic leadership attempted to amend each bill to replicate last week’s Senate-passed CR.

Normal business was briefly suspended when a car tried to breach road barriers outside the Capitol and Congress went from shutdown to lockdown.

Congress is expected to be in session this weekend, according to reports yesterday. It was also announced yesterday night that Secretary of State John Kerry will now be traveling to Indonesia and Brunei instead of President Obama.


Shutdown Day 2: Legislative Action Update

On Wednesday, the House resumed debate on bills to fund certain limited parts of the federal government – these bills were considered but did not pass the House on Tuesday and the House decided to reconsider them under different rules and procedures. Tuesday evening the House passed three separate funding measures – to fund the DC government (taken by voice vote, or no roll call), to fund the National Institutes of Health (NIH) (254-171), and to fund the national parks (252-173). The bills have been sent to the Senate, which has indicated they are not interested in passing individual spending measures, according to reports.

House and Senate leaders met at the White House yesterday evening. Present at the meeting were President Obama, Vice President Biden, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Speaker of the House John Boehner, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. It was reported that no deal was struck as a result of the meeting and that Obamacare continues to be the sticking point in negotiations.

With the shutdown lingering, President Obama announced yesterday that he will shorten a planned trip to Asia this weekend, and will reevalute the entire trip later this week.

On the non-shutdown front, House Democrats released draft immigration legislation and the House passed H.R. 3233, which would extend the period for special immigrant status to Iraqis employed by the U.S. government.

And the shutdown continues…

Shutdown Day 1: Legislative Action Recap

Late Monday night, about two hours ahead of the shutdown deadline, the House called for a Conference Committee. Yesterday, the Senate voted 54-46 to table the Conference Committee.

Also yesterday, the House took up a plan to vote on resolutions funding certain limited programs. The House voted and failed to suspend the rules and agree these “mini CRs” for veterans’ affairs (failed by vote of 264-164), national parks (failed by 252-176), and Washington, DC (failed by 265-163). A two-thirds majority, or 288 votes, is required to suspend the rules and bring legislation directly to the House floor.

While there was not much progress on the shutdown front, Congress did attend to some other work – the Senate named conferees to the Farm Bill.

Federal Government Shutdown

For the first time in 17 years, the federal government has officially shutdown.  Late last night, the Administration released a memo to all federal agencies advising them to execute their contingency plans (an agency-by-agency list is available here).

Yesterday the Senate passed a bill that would fund the government through November 15, 2013, but would make no changes to the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  (More information on the Senate vote is available here.)  Last night, by a vote of 228-201, the House passed legislation that would keep the government open through December 15, 2013, but would delay the ACA’s individual mandate requirement and would eliminate health insurance subsidies for Members of Congress, Congressional staff, the President, the Vice President, and political appointees.  By a vote of 54-46 the Senate voted to table, or kill, the legislation.

Following the latest Senate action, the House voted to formally request a conference committee with the Senate.  (Conference committees are joint House-Senate committees that are created to resolve disagreements between the House and Senate versions of a given bill.)  House Speaker Boehner (R-OH) appointed the following members to the conference committee:  House Majority Leader Cantor (R-VA-7), Ways and Means Chairman Camp (R-MI-4), House Budget Committee Chairman Ryan (R-WI-1), House Appropriations Chairman Rogers (R-KY-5), Representative Frelinghuysen (R-NJ-11), Representative Crenshaw (R-FL-4), Representative Carter (R-TX-31), and Representative Graves (R-GA-14).  House Democrats have not appointed conferees.  The Senate voted to table the request for conferees.

While the House and Senate cannot seem to agree on terms to fund the entire government, both chambers have passed H.R. 3210, legislation that would provide payment through the government shutdown for members of the Armed Forces (including reserve personnel) and civilian Department of Defense (DoD) employees and contractors whom the DoD Secretary determines are providing support to members of the Armed Forces.  The legislation passed the House by a unanimous vote, the Senate passed the bill by a voice vote, and was signed into law by President Obama last night.

At this point, both the House and the Senate appear at a stalemate.  Until Members of Congress can reach some agreement, the government shutdown will remain in place.  We will continue to update this blog as events unfold.

Dewonkify – Furlough

The Word: Furlough

Definition: Temporary unpaid leave

Used In A Sentence: “Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says Pentagon and administration lawyers are looking for ways to expand the number of Defense Department civilians who are exempt from furloughs, amid worries that the government shutdown is damaging U.S. credibility among its international allies.” From “Hagel: Pentagon looking to exempt more workers from shutdown furloughs,” by the Associated Press, published in the Washington Post, Tuesday, October 1

Why It’s Relevant: During a federal government shutdown, all “nonessential” workers are furloughed. These workers are essentially on unpaid leave for the duration of the shutdown. Additionally, earlier this year, many federal agencies furloughed some of their staff a few days during the year as part of cost-cutting measures following the implementation of sequestration (across-the-board federal funding cuts contained in the Budget Control Act). While on furlough, federal employees are not able to “volunteer” to work for the government and even checking their work e-mail is a violation of federal law.  Some parts of the federal government and some employees are not affected by a shutdown because they are supported by funding not tied to the annual appropriations process (e.g., mandatory spending).  For additional information see, the Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM’s) “Guidance for Shutdown Furloughs.”

Federal Shutdown Likely

On Friday, September 27, 2013, the Senate passed a short-term continuing resolution (CR) that would keep the government operating through November 15, 2013.  (More information on the Senate vote is available here). Late Saturday night (September 28th), the House passed legislation that would fund the federal government through December 15, 2013, delay implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for one year, and also repeal the 2.3 percent tax on medical devices.

Today, Monday, September 30, 2013, by a vote of 54-46, the Senate passed a bill that would fund the federal government through November 15th.  The Senate did not adopt provisions in the House-passed bill that would delay implementation of the ACA and repeal the device tax.

With only hours to go before the end of the 2013 fiscal year, a federal government shutdown is all but certain.  The Administration has published a list of each agency’s contingency plans in the event of a government shutdown.

We will continue to update this blog as events unfold.

Countdown to Shutdown – The Basics

Unless Congress and the Administration can reach a deal by October 1, 2013, the federal government will technically “shutdown”.  This post describes some basic information on a possible shutdown.  More information will be provided as events unfold.

How can a government shutdown?

The U.S. government operates on a fiscal year (FY) basis that runs from October 1st through September 30th each year.  Each year, Congress funds the operation of federal agencies through the annual appropriations process.  In recent years, Congress has appropriated money through a series of stop-gap measures known as continuing resolutions (CRs).  The latest stop-gap measure is slated to expire at the end of the current fiscal year (FY 2013) – September 30, 2013.

Does a government shutdown mean the entire government will cease operations?

No.  Despite a shutdown, the government will continue to operate some services.  While the Antideficiency Act prohibits agencies from spending money that exceeds their appropriations, there are some exceptions to this requirement.  According to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), certain services are deemed “essential” – services pertaining to national security and/or the protection of life and property and services required to make benefit payments for entitlement programs – and thus must continue to operate notwithstanding a shutdown.

Last week, OMB sent a memo to all executive agencies directing them to start planning in case Congress and the Administration are unable to come to an agreement and enact further appropriations.

Has the federal government previously shutdown?

Yes.  Most recently the federal government underwent two shutdowns – one for five days and the other for 21 days – when then-President Clinton and the Republican-controlled Congress differed over spending issues.

Do federal workers get paid when the government shuts down?

Not necessarily.  Even if a federal worker is deemed “essential” and thus must report for duty, this does not mean s/he will be paid for that work.  In the past, federal workers – whether essential or non-essential – have received their salaries retroactively when Congress and the Administration signs a new appropriations bill or CR.

More information on furloughs is available at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) site.