Despite appearances, Congress has not forgotten about the Fiscal Year 2021 budget. The problem has been the ongoing disagreement on how to respond to the COVID pandemic. Since Congress hasn’t been able to get beyond that issue, it hasn’t been able to focus on other high-level topics. However, the approaching November election, and a desire to not have a government shutdown just before voters go to the polls, has necessitated a continuing resolution (or CR) to be considered.
Released today, the CR would fund the government at Fiscal Year 2020 levels through December 11th. However, because of Congress’ inaction on a number of must-pass issues, this bill is not “clean,” meaning it is not free of other policy and funding issues. While unlikely to completely derail the process on its own, these other items could slow down or delay final passage of a CR. In fact, the initial language has already caused bickering between House and Senate leaders over topics that weren’t included in the bill’s language.
However, the bigger concern, and big question mark, is how the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Senate Republicans desire to confirm her replacement before the election, will impact all legislation in Congress. Will Senate Democrats throw up any and all legislative roadblocks to halt a vote on a proposed replacement? Would the Republicans acquiesce if such a tactic were employed? Would the Democrats be willing to risk a government shutdown just before the election? These are unprecedented circumstances and it’s hard to say what will happen. More so than ever, it’s a wait and see situation; we’ll have more updates as they happen, so please check back.