WASHINGTON—Lawmakers have raised concerns that a budget deal may not be reached for fiscal year 2020 if the current disagreements between Republicans and Democrats remain.
Congress and President Donald Trump have until the end of Dec. 20 to approve a spending package. Another continuing resolution (CR), which is a short-term spending measure, may be needed to keep U.S. government agencies open beyond the deadline if lawmakers fail to resolve their differences.
It’s possible, however, that agreement on a spending package may not be reached for the entire fiscal year, which runs from Oct. 1, 2019, through Sept. 30, 2020. So, some lawmakers have proposed a long-term CR to extend current funding levels and avert a government shutdown.
Congress has already twice passed temporary funding measures in the past several months.
Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, calls a yearlong CR “a terrible likelihood,” according to Federal News Network.
He told reporters on Dec. 2 that if House and Senate leaders failed to reach a resolution this week, it would be hard for lawmakers to meet the next deadline, as they would need about two weeks to draft the appropriations bills.
Lankford said that extending the CR longer would put pressure on military and civilian agencies.
“I would oppose a yearlong CR because a yearlong CR puts everybody in a really bad position,” he said. “Every agency complains that they spend all their time on budgeting and paperwork, rather than vision-casting and oversight and doing the work they need to do. So while the line employees are still at their desks and still working, all of the executive-level that should be doing all the planning, all the oversight and everything else, are now doing budget work 24/7. We have to resolve it.”
Lankford also expressed his frustration with the appropriations process.
“Appropriations has become a frustrating place, only because the bills really aren’t coming to the floor,” he said. “They’re really not being amended in committee, so much of the decision-making is happening on the senior level, and everyone’s a spectator.”
Lankford offers solutions to fix the U.S. federal budget process in a recent report called Federal Fumbles that compiles government waste and inefficiencies.
“My idea is basically the same approach my mom took with my brother and me: force Congress to stay in DC until we are able to fully fund the government,” he wrote in the report.
In July, Congress reached a two-year budget deal, which increased federal spending and raised the government borrowing limit. Congressional leaders now have to reach an agreement on all 12 spending bills, with funding of the new wall on the U.S. border with Mexico a major sticking point. Democrats also insist on numerous provisions that Republicans view as poison pills, such as maintaining amendments to protect federal funding for abortions.
If Congress resorts to a yearlong CR, the U.S. Defense Department will face delays in modernizing the military.
“If the Army has to stick to [the 2019 fiscal year’s] spending levels for an entire year, it won’t be able to begin 79 new-start programs, which amount to $1.9 billion in planned investment,” according to an article by Defense News.
This will “erode the Army’s ambitious plan to field a fully modernized force by 2028,” the article stated.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) earlier warned Trump and the White House budget officials against a year-long CR.
“I mentioned that if we didn’t move the process, I told them we would be looking at another CR for three or four weeks, probably another one, and then one for the year,” Shelby told reporters after his meeting with Trump in September.