Congress passes short-term funding bill to avert government shutdown

BY Michael Aron, Chief Political Correspondent |

In the nick of time, homeward-bound members of Congress passed a stop-gap measure that averted a government shutdown. Passing a so-called “continuing resolution” that funds the government until Jan. 19, but punts into the next year some difficult policy issues.

Republicans in Congress didn’t want to spoil the afterglow of their tax reform success by shutting down the government, so they passed a bill that continues funding for another four weeks. The vote was 231 to 188 in the House and 66 to 32 in the Senate, largely along party lines.

New Jersey Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen managed the floor debate for House Republicans in his role as chairman of the Appropriations Committee.

“The House must pass this bill now, today. Without action on this bill, existing government funding will expire and the government will shut down. This legislation provides a simple, clean extension of current funding levels through January of 2018,” said Frelinghuysen.

The bill provides short-term funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program [CHIP] and the Veterans Choice Program that broadens health care options for veterans. It also continues the warrant-less wiretap surveillance program and the National Flood Insurance Program, both of which were set to expire.

The bill did not address a number of high profile issues and programs that will have to be put off until next year. Those include; DACA, Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals, which shields young undocumented immigrants, the so-called “Dreamers”, from deportation; the issue of “cost sharing” to stabilize Obamacare insurance markets; long-term funding for warrant-less wiretaps, children’s health insurance; missile defense; and a long-term spending deal that would fund the government through FY 18 that ends next September.

Democrats were largely dismissive of the bill. New Jersey Congressman Bill Pascrell put out a statement saying, “The House of Representatives adjourned for the holidays without finding any resolution to a whole host of issues that are critically important to Americans. Republican House leadership decided not to engage Democratic members, despite the fact there is bipartisan support for finding a long-term government funding agreement, reauthorizing the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and finding a permanent solution for DREAMers. Instead, they passed a temporary government funding measure that kicks the can down the road a few weeks longer and provides no certainty or long-term stability. It’s past time for Republican leadership to come to the table and work with Democrats on how to resolve these issues.”

So, Democrats have quickly turned the page from tax reform to other areas of disagreement. Republicans have averted a shutdown that would have distracted from their tax reform celebration. Both sides have taken their bats and balls and gone home for the holidays.