WASHINGTON, DC – With federal agencies currently operating under a short-term continuing resolution (CR) that expires at midnight tonight, Congress today passed a stopgap measure that will keep the federal government open through December 20th and fund federal agencies at fiscal 2019 spending levels.  The Senate voted 74-20 today in favor of the stopgap measure, which President Trump must sign before midnight tonight to prevent another federal government shutdown.  The White House indicated the President would sign the bill.

U.S. Senator Jack Reed, who voted in favor of today’s measure, says the last minute dealing and brinksmanship over federal shutdowns is unnecessary an urged Republican leaders to get to work, not wait until the last minute to pass major spending bills, and return to regular order with respect to the appropriations process.

In July, Congressional leaders reached an agreement with the White House over fiscal 2020 spending levels, with $738 billion budgeted for defense-related appropriations and $632 billion allocated for nondefense programs.  Senate Republican leaders are backing the President’s plan to syphon funding from defense, health, and education programs in order to fund an ineffective border wall.  As a result, the appropriations process has ground to a halt.  Only four of twelve bills have passed the Senate so far and final bills must still be negotiated with the House on all twelve annual appropriations measures.

Reed, the Ranking Member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD), lamented that the White House and Congressional Republican leaders have dragged their feet and slow walked the appropriations process.

“President Trump continues to try and divert health, education, and national security funds to pay for an ineffective border wall - a wall that he promised Mexico would pay for.  As a result, the President has once again dragged the government to the brink of a shutdown, and the only plan on the table is another short-term funding measure.  While short-term continuing resolutions ‘keep the lights on,’ they prevent federal agencies from making long-term funding commitments that allow them to operate in a cost-effective manner.  Indeed, the Navy has been forced to delay some contracts, and other federal agencies are also paying a price.  This should not continue.  The President needs to negotiate with Speaker Pelosi, Leader McConnell, and other Congressional leaders to reach an agreement to responsibly fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year,” said Senator Reed.

Senator Reed helped write the bipartisan fiscal year 2020 THUD Appropriations bill and steer it through unanimous approval by the full Appropriations Committee last month.  The THUD bill is one of the few appropriations bills that has been approved by the Senate as part of a package of four domestic spending bills that also included Agriculture; Interior & Environment; and Commerce-Justice-Science.

The Senate’s THUD spending package will help advance road and bridge projects, boost aviation safety, expand affordable housing opportunities, and preserve community economic development investments.  The measure rejects President Trump’s proposal to steeply cut transportation, community, and housing programs, and instead provides increases in many key initiatives.                 

Reed noted that the Senate THUD bill directs over $86.6 billion in total budgetary resources to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) in order to improve the safety, reliability, and efficiency of our transportation networks.  These investments will allow for the development of transformative projects across all modes of transportation and will make significant strides to address the deferred maintenance backlog in our airport, highway, rail, and transit systems.  The bill also includes $1 billion for infrastructure grants that Senator Reed advocated for through the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) grant program, as well as enhanced funding for Amtrak.

“I am pleased we were able to include major investments to help states repair and replace aging infrastructure, including bridges.  Our transportation network is the backbone of our economy.  The federal government needs to help states upgrade existing bridge infrastructure to prevent more costly repairs and emergencies down the road,” noted Senator Reed.

The bill also provides $48.6 billion in discretionary resources for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  It makes key investments to preserve affordable housing for nearly five million low-income households; prevent and end homelessness for the more than 552,000 people experiencing homelessness; expand affordable housing and community development opportunities in more than 1,200 communities; and improve environmental conditions for more than 19,000 low-income households.  Furthermore, the bill restores funding for critical housing production and economic development programs, which were proposed for elimination in the President’s budget request.  This includes sustained investments in the HOME program and the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, which give local governments needed resources to advance their communities, support businesses, create jobs, and ensure the availability of decent, affordable housing.

Last year, President Trump forced a federal government shut down over a 35-day span that began just ahead of Christmas in 2018.