WASHINGTON — Republican congressional leaders on Thursday said they are confident the federal government won’t shut down again next week, even though a full-year budget deal won’t be completed by Feb. 8.
In a press conference from the annual Republican planning retreat being held in West Virginia, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said his team is making progress with Democratic leadership on that full fiscal 2018 budget, and is optimistic that a deal will be announced soon.
“But even if we get everything figured out by Tuesday, we still will have to have a (continuing resolution), if only for the fact that we have to give the appropriators time to write an omnibus appropriations bill,” he added.
“So there will have to be another CR … We’re still negotiating the contents and duration of that.”
The current short-term spending bill — passed last month to end the three-day government shutdown — expires on Feb. 8. If a new spending plan isn’t adopted by then, lawmakers will trigger another partial closure of government operations.
The next continuing resolution will be the fifth of the current fiscal year, which began Oct. 1. Military leaders have decried the practice of passing short-term spending legislation in lieu of a full-year budget, saying it severely hurts efforts to start new programs and maintain multi-year equipment purchase plans.
As a result, a growing number of Republicans and Democrats on key defense committees have publicly said they will not support future budget continuing resolutions.
But on Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he didn’t believe that lawmakers on either side would allow a shutdown to occur again, calling it “one tool we won’t use.”
Since last summer, leaders from both parties have been locked in a political stalemate over the federal budget, and how to lift mandatory spending caps on both defense and non-defense programs. Republicans have argued that caps on military spending alone should be lifted, while Democrats have pushed for equal funding raises for a host of non-military departments.
In addition, Senate Democrats last month refused to go along with a short-term spending bill to avoid a shutdown because of McConnell’s refusal to bring up immigration reform measures. Since then, a bipartisan coalition has been working on possible legislation to address the expiring Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy.
On Thursday, Ryan again laid blame on the Democrats for the funding impasse.
“The reason we’re having these (continuing resolutions) in the first place is because Democrats holding cap agreements hostage, the military funding hostage for an unrelated issue,” he said. “So if we would have had the cap agreement in place by now, we would not be having to do these CRs.”
On Tuesday, the House voted largely along party lines to advance a stand-alone defense appropriations bill that would allot about $584 billion in base budget funding and another $75 billion in overseas war funds. But Senate Democrats are expected to block any effort to bring up the measure in their chamber for a similar vote.