Congress is back from a seven-week recess with less than a month to prevent a government shutdown.
With a little more than three weeks until the end of the fiscal year, and about two months remaining until Election Day, lawmakers must fund the federal government or watch as national parks close and federal employees are furloughed.
The budget year ends Sept. 30, and as of now, none of the regular spending bills have become law. There is disagreement on Capitol Hill about both the length of any stopgap budget as well as spending levels: House conservatives want to spend $30 billion less than what was called for in a deal struck last year.
Conflict over spending is typical on Capitol Hill. But it’s the length of a stopgap budget — or “continuing resolution,” in Washington-speak — that could be the biggest issue of all, budget watcher Stan Collender wrote in a piece for Forbes. He explains: “Republicans want to lock in the spending levels through next year so that, if she’s elected, President Hillary Clinton won’t be able to change them.” With fiscal 2017 beginning on a Saturday, a shutdown over Oct. 1-2 is possible, he writes.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has reportedly told President Barack Obama that Democrats will not support a stopgap bill beyond Christmas.
That puts the two parties on a collision course before the presidential and congressional elections on Nov. 8. A shutdown could have fallout for either party as the race for the White House has become close in national polls and Republicans defend their Senate majority.
The government last shut down for 16 days in 2013, amid a disagreement over Obama’s health-care law. About 850,000 federal employees were furloughed after funding ran out, but unemployment checks were delivered and the U.S. Postal Service — funded by income from stamps — kept delivering mail.
During the last shutdown, an Associated Press poll showed Americans held Republicans primarily responsible.
Greg Valliere, chief global strategist of Horizon Investments, said in a note Tuesday morning that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell “wants no drama — and certainly no shutdown; he’s fighting to maintain GOP control of the Senate, and doesn’t want to rock the boat.”
Valliere believes there will be a continuing resolution at the last minute. But he thinks such a stopgap bill would keep the government open through early December, and thus “another crisis will arrive.”
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