Shutdown clock still ticking

There are five working days left before the current federal appropriation expires, and still a lot of wrangling lies ahead before Congress can pass new spending authority.

Shutterstock image: U.S. Capitol at dusk.

Congress will have five working days after returning from its two-week Easter recess on April 25 to pass legislation to prevent a government shutdown.

While the Senate has been dominated by the drama surrounding the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, the House has been trying to produce a health care bill to replace the Affordable Care Act.

In the meantime, the current continuing resolution funding the government is due to expire on April 28.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) appear confident that a shutdown is not in the offing. Leaders on the Appropriations committees in both chambers are looking to some kind of omnibus appropriations package to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year, and not just another continuing resolution.

"There's no desire for a CR," McConnell said.

But snags are still possible. The Trump administration is hoping to introduce some $2 billion in new funding for the planned border wall into the appropriation for the remainder of fiscal year 2017, while making additional cuts at other agencies.

The bid to fund wall construction is not sitting well with Senate Democrats, whose cooperation is needed to pass an appropriations package or continuing resolution.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has called the wall funding "a poison-pill rider" and said that Republicans push it "at their peril."

Republicans aren't that optimistic about wall funding either.

"All of the committees, the leaderships of the House and Senate, are working together to try to finalize the rest of the [FY 2017] bill," said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.). "My guess is that comes together better without the supplemental."

A shutdown would likely prove embarrassing for the new administration, which already has been buffeted by legislative failures including a high-profile effort to pass a health care bill that would have rolled back much of the Affordable Care Act. Adding to that embarrassment is the reality that a shutdown would begin on President Donald Trump's 100th day in office.

Publically, Democrats are adopting a wait-and-see attitude. Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said, "The Republicans are in charge of the strategy on this. We're just waiting and watching."

His House counterpart Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said, "If the government shuts down, it will be all on them, period."