On Thursday, February 14, the House of Representatives and the Senate gave a sweet valentine to Federal workers by passing the full-year appropriation, ensuring that our Agencies will be funded for the rest of the year. The President signed it on Friday, February 15. A group of us celebrated after work at a Happy Hour, toasting an end to the Great Shutdown of 2018-2019. And so, this blog comes to an end. At least, until October 1 nears…
My posts have dropped off as I’ve returned to the normality of work, receiving back pay, waking up before the sun, etc… However, this week, it hit me that my agency is only funded through 11:59 pm Friday February 15. If Congress and the President are unable to agree on a funding package, we could be looking at yet another partial Government shutdown.
In retrospect, I realize that during the last shutdown, I was in a state of low-level but chronic anxiety. I felt the same feelings coming back yesterday, after hearing news that the negotiations for the border security had broken down. My mood lightened this morning, after a good night’s sleep and the news that the Congressional committee had agreed on a border security bill.
I know that I wasn’t alone. The Washington Post features a countdown to the next shutdown — as I write this, it reads 3 days, 4 hours, 44 minutes, and 5 seconds. Yesterday’s front page had a tearjerker article about an IRS employee who was financially devastated by the previous shutdown and is very anxious about next week. My Facebook feed includes worries about next week. My union sends daily updates on the status of funding, and today called for a grassroots effort for members to call their Members of Congress and the President this week. Ask them to ensure that federal agencies stay open for the public.
I will do contact my members of Congress again, even though I feel like that’s preaching to the choir. I’ll try to get as much done as I can this week, in case I’m out for an unspecified amount of time. I’ll plan to do some more work around the house and scanning photos if I find myself with more time. And I’ll hope that Congress and the President come to their senses and fund the government!
Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) has introduced a bill called the Stop the Shutdowns Transferring Unnecessary Pain and Inflicting Damage In The Coming Years (STUPIDITY) Act. I have no idea what the prospects of it for passing, but it is brilliant. In the event that Congress is unable to pass a regular appropriation, a Continuing Resolution that would fund the Government at the previous year’s level would automatically kick in. Below is the text for any legislative nerds. Please contact your Congressional Representative and Senators to pass this act.
A Bill to provide for continuing appropriations in the event of a lapse in appropriations under the normal appropriations process, other than for the legislative branch and the Executive Office of the President.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled.
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE
This Act may be cited as the ‘‘Stop the Shutdowns Transferring Unnecessary Pain and Inflicting Damage In The coming Years Act’’.
1(a) IN GENERAL.—Chapter 13 of title 31, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following
SECTION 2. AUTOMATIC CONTINUING APPROPRIATIONS.
‘‘(a) In this section, the term ‘excluded account means an appropriation account—‘‘(1) for any agency, office, or other entity in or under the legislative branch; or ‘‘(2) for any agency, office, or other entity in or under the Executive Office of the President.
‘‘(b)(1)(A) If an appropriation Act for a fiscal year with respect to the account for a program, project, or activity has not been enacted and continuing appropriations are not in effect during any period during such fiscal year with respect to the program, project, or activity, there are appropriated such sums as may be necessary to continue, at the rate for operations specified in subparagraph (B),
the program, project, or activity if ‘‘(i) the program, project, or activity is not funded under an excluded account; and ‘‘(ii) funds were provided for the program, project, or activity during the preceding fiscal year.
‘‘(B) The rate for operations specified in this sub-paragraph with respect to a program, project, or activity
‘‘(i) is the rate for operations for the preceding fiscal year for the program, project, or activity— ‘‘(I) provided in the corresponding appropriation Act for such preceding fiscal year; or ‘‘(II) if the corresponding appropriation bill for such preceding fiscal year was not en acted, provided in the law providing continuing appropriations for such preceding fiscal year; or ‘‘(ii) if the corresponding appropriation bill and a law providing continuing appropriations for such preceding fiscal year were not enacted, is the rate for operations for the preceding fiscal year for the program, project, or activity provided under this section for such preceding fiscal year, as increased by the percentage increase, if any, in the gross domestic product for the calendar year ending during such preceding fiscal year as compared to the gross domestic product for the calendar year before such calendar year.
‘‘(2) Appropriations and funds made available, and authority granted, for any fiscal year pursuant to this section for a program, project, or activity shall be available for the period beginning with the first day of any lapse in appropriations during such fiscal year and ending with the date on which the applicable regular appropriation bill
for such fiscal year is enacted (whether or not such law provides appropriations for such program, project, or activity) or a law making continuing appropriations for the program, project, or activity is enacted, as the case may be.
‘‘(c) An appropriation or funds made available, or authority granted, for a program, project, or activity for any fiscal year pursuant to this section shall be subject to the terms and conditions imposed with respect to the appropriation made or funds made available for the preceding fiscal year, or authority granted for such program, project, or activity under current law.
‘‘(d) Expenditures made for a program, project, or activity for any fiscal year pursuant to this section shall be charged to the applicable appropriation, fund, or authorization whenever a regular appropriation Act, or a law making continuing appropriations until the end of such fiscal year, for such program, project, or activity is enacted.
‘‘(e) This section shall not apply to a program, project, or activity during a fiscal year if any other provision of law (other than an authorization of appropriations)—
‘‘(1) makes an appropriation, makes funds available, or grants authority for such program, project, or activity to continue for such period; or
‘‘(2) specifically provides that no appropriation shall be made, no funds shall be made available, or no authority shall be granted for such program, project, or activity to continue for such period.’’.
(b) CLERICAL AMENDMENT.—The table of sections for chapter 13 of title 31, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following: ‘‘1311. Automatic continuing appropriations.’’
Many people, particularly those reading from abroad, may be wondering why the United States Government has these “shutdowns”. This post will provide some background. A good description can also be found on Wikipedia.
The United States Congress appropriates funds for operating the United States Government. Like any other legislation, these appropriations must be passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate and then signed by the United States President. If the President vetoes them, both houses muster a two-thirds majority vote to override the veto.
The Antideficiency Act prevents the Government from entering into a contract that is not “fully funded”. If there is a lapse of appropriations, a Government Agency must suspend all operations that are not required to protect the safety of human life or the protection of property. Those employees performing such duties (such as TSA agents) are considered essential and must continue to work. Other employees, such as myself, are furloughed, which means that we are essentially locked out from our work. Once funds are restored, everyone goes back to work and essential employees receive back pay. For furloughed employees, Congress must vote (and the President sign) legislation to provide pay for the days that employees were furloughed.
There are 12 appropriations bills that must be passed every year. Since the Federal Fiscal Year begins on October 1, these bills must be passed and signed by September 30. Sometimes, all or many of these bills are combined into an “omnibus” appropriations bill. If bills are not enacted, Congress may enact a temporary “continuing resolution” which funds the Government for a set period of time, allowing Congress to pass a full-year appropriation.
For 2019, Congress passed some appropriations, such as the Department of Defense, Social Security, and Medicare. However, many other parts of Government were not covered under an appropriations bill and were funded under a Continuing Resolution that expired at midnight, Saturday, December 22. The President refuses to sign any appropriations bill (even a Continuing Resolution) that does not contain $5.7 billion for a border wall separating the United States and Mexico. The House of Representatives will not pass an appropriation that funds the border wall. The Senate will not vote on any appropriation that will not be signed by the President. All three parties are at an impasse, waiting to see who will blink first. And so here we are, on day 20 of this shutdown.