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  • Washington Highlights

    Shutdown Looms as Stopgap Spending Bill Flounders

    Tannaz Rasouli, Sr. Director, Public Policy & Strategic Outreach
    For Media Inquiries

    Lawmakers appeared poised to trigger a shutdown of federal government agencies as efforts to prevent a funding lapse before the Oct. 1 start of the new fiscal year (FY) lag. Senators voted 76-22 on Sept. 28 to advance a bipartisan continuing resolution (CR) that would temporarily extend funding for agencies through Nov. 17, while Congress completes work on the annual spending bills, setting up a cloture vote on or before Sept. 30. But Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has objected to the inclusion of emergency funding for Ukraine, making it unlikely that the chamber will be able to vote on the measure before funding for the federal government expires.  

    As of press time, however, the House had no plans to vote on the Senate measure and, instead, was scheduled to consider on Sept. 29 its own version of a CR (H.R. 5525) that would extend funding through Oct. 31. The House bill would impose substantial across-the-board cuts to nondefense, nonveteran programs and would implement a number of border security provisions. In spite of the last-ditch effort to put forward some sort of alternative that would appease some Republicans objecting to the Senate bill, at press time, the vote on H.R. 5525 was widely expected to fail. The House has struggled to move its FY 24 spending bills.  

    The impasse has led federal agencies to update their staffing contingency plans governing scaled back operations in the event that lawmakers are unable to reach a compromise by Oct. 1. Under a shutdown, most operations at the agencies cease, other than activities necessary to ensure safety or protect property. For example, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) anticipates it will retain approximately 22% of its staff during the shutdown to continue ongoing operations at the NIH Clinical Center, provide basic care services to NIH animals, and to safeguard ongoing experiments, operations, and facilities on the NIH campus. Because Medicare and other benefits are funded outside of the appropriations process, those payments are expected to continue uninterrupted, though lags may occur if the shutdown extends for a prolonged period.