Another Government Shutdown Imminent?


 

UPDATE – 9/25/2015

Today, Speaker of the House John Boehner announced his resignation from Congress and his leadership position.  See our latest article on how this effects the shutdown and ESEA developments.

UPDATE – 9/24/2015

By a vote of 47-52, the Senate failed to invoke cloture on the Cochran Continuing Resolution that would have defunded Planned Parenthood.  Eight Republicans voted against moving forward this bill, and one democrat voted for cloture.  As anticipated, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has offered a clean Continuing Resolution as a substitute amendment.  The vote on the amendment will likely occur at the end of the day on Monday, September 28.

UPDATE – 9/23/2015

Although budget and funding related bills typically originate in the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate is taking matters into their own hands to prevent a government shutdown.  Yesterday, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran (R-MS) released text for a short-term continuing resolution, which if passed, would fund the Federal Government through December 11 and prohibit Federal funding for Planned Parenthood.   The bill provides funding for all discretionary programs at the previous FY 2015 levels.

A cloture vote for Senator Cochran’s bill is expected to occur Thursday afternoon and is anticipated to fail. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is expected to cut the Planned Parenthood defunding provision in order to create a clean continuing resolution that strictly is meant for funding the government with no outside provisions. If a clean Continuing Resolution were to pass in the Senate, the bill would go to the House next week where the chamber would decide: accept and pass the Senate’s continuing resolution or, reject it and lead to a Government Shutdown.


Last week on September 8, Congress concluded their August recess and resumed legislative session.  Although Congress has made significant steps towards reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA,) continuing progress on that front may come to a halt if the Federal Government experiences another Shutdown over looming budget talks.  The federal government needs to be funded for the upcoming fiscal year by September 30 and Congress has yet to pass a single spending bill for Fiscal Year 2016.  Lawmakers will look to pass a short-term budget extension, or “Continuing Resolution,” which will keep the government open at spending levels same as the previous fiscal year until a long term funding solution is resolved.

So What Would Happen?

If the government were to shut down on October 1, we would experience similar effects as we did in the most recent shutdown in 2013:

  • All Federal agencies, including the Department of Education, would be required to cease all operations and furlough the majority of their staff;
  • Majority of schools and universities will not face immediate impact from a shutdown. However, the longer it draws out, the more negative impact students and schools will face that receive federal funds.
  • Head-Start and Impact Aid programs could experience serious negative impact; this is due to their direct funding through the Department of Health and Human Services (Head-Start) and the Department of Education (Impact Aid).
    • During the last shutdown in 2013, thousands of children who were scheduled to receive federal grants were temporarily removed out of Head Start programs.  Roughly 19,000 Head Start students were affected by this temporary block.
    • An extended shutdown could force school districts that rely heavily on Impact Aid to dip into budget reserves or even borrow money. 
  • All 401 National Parks and monuments would be closed;
  • The U.S. postal service would continue to function.

The Current Stage

The House of Representative’s most recent legislative schedule did not indicate discussion of a short-term Continuing Resolution.  If there are no budget talks this week, the earliest discussion would occur on Thursday, September 24, because Congress is out of session Monday – Wednesday for the Jewish holidays.  If next Thursday is the earliest, it would leave very little time for the Senate to act before the September 30 fiscal deadline.

The approaching deadline is not the only complication for Congress as debates continue over the Iran nuclear accord and funding for Planned Parenthood.  To complicate matters further, several conservative lawmakers of the House Freedom Caucus have pledged to oppose any bill (long-term, short-term, or omnibus spending bill) funding the government if it includes funding for Planned Parenthood.  The caucus is pressuring Speaker John Boehner (R-OH-8) to decide between backing their strategy and shutting down the government, or being replaced out of his leadership position.  On the other side of Capitol Hill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has publicly stated that he will back a plan to fund the government into December with no conditions, rejecting any budget bill that defunds Planned Parenthood, and has urged his members to do the same. 

NAfME will continue to monitor the situation closely.  ESEA conference committee conferees are expected to be announced any day now.  However, if a government shutdown is imminent, we can anticipate further delay for an undetermined amount of time in advancing this crucial piece of legislation which makes “music” and “arts” core academic subjects.  We hope Congress does not repeat an outcome we experienced two years ago, which jeopardizes the betterment of education and funding for our students.  For more information on how the government shutdown impacted education the last time around, please visit our website.

Ronny Lau, Legislative Policy Advisor, Center for Advocacy and Constituency Engagement, September 15, 2015. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org).