On the Brink of Shutdown?

Today is September 30, the last day of the government's fiscal year. If Congress does not agree on a continuing resolution today to authorize spending for the next fiscal year, tomorrow the government will shut down.

On Friday, the Senate passed a continuing resolution that accepted the House-preferred level of spending at $986 billion (just below sequester levels for non-defense appropriations and $19 billion higher than sequester levels for defense), funding the government through November 15.

On Saturday, the House considered the Senate bill and made amendments, funding the government for one month longer (through December 15), delaying the Affordable Care Act's implementation by one year, and repealing the medical device tax that partially funds the law. Repealing the medical device tax would cost $30 billion over the next ten years, adding to the deficit. Delaying the Affordable Care Act could increase or decrease the deficit, depending on the details. 

As CRFB President Maya MacGuineas said in a statement:

We are extremely disappointed that instead of identifying a credible way to fund the government and comply with or replace the sequester, the House of Representatives is now calling for making the deficit worse rather than better by repealing the Medical Device Tax. The unproductive political brinksmanship we are in the midst of will virtually guarantee an 11th-hour deal, if not a full government shutdown, and it will do nothing to advance the causes of deficit reduction and entitlement reform.

It is unfortunate that lawmakers failed to use this fiscal hurdle as an opportunity to deal directly with how to meet or replace the sequester and make progress toward putting the debt on a clear downward path as a share of the economy. That House Republicans have focused on extraneous measures is bad enough, but that their focus is on deficit increasing policies is unacceptable.

So what happens now? The Senate is likely to take up the bill shortly after 2pm today, and then will promptly vote it down by a majority vote. Even if the Senate were to pass the House bill, the President has issued a veto threatThat puts the onus back on the House of Representatives to send another CR to the Senate, which would then have to be approved and signed by the President. All of this must happen by midnight, or else the government will shut down.

We've written recently about what such a shutdown would mean in Everything You Needed To Know About a Government Shutdown.

With less than one day to go, it is time for Congress to stop this brinksmanship, come to a short-term agreement to fund the government, and turn their attention to the more pressing issues of raising the debt limit and addressing our longer-term fiscal concerns through entitlement and tax reform.