Connecting state and local government leaders
The continuing resolution extends SNAP through September, ensures other benefit programs are funded into early 2024 and avoids millions of workers being furloughed.
State and local officials will likely be spared from the repercussions of a shutdown—including seeing millions of workers being furloughed and planning for the end of low-income assistance—at least until January.
Congress appeared to be poised to avert a shutdown ahead of the Nov. 17 deadline on Tuesday after House Democrats joined Republicans to overcome the opposition of 93 conservatives to pass a two-tiered, “laddered” continuing resolution that would maintain funding for some agencies until January and others until February. The measure passed 336-95, with two Democrats also voting against it.
Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer signaled at a press conference Tuesday afternoon that he is willing to support the measure proposed by conservative Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson because it does not include “hard-right MAGA cuts.” Both he and President Joe Biden believe that avoiding a shutdown “would be a good thing.”
It was not clear how quickly the Senate would vote on the proposal given its lengthy procedures. But Schumer said he will work with Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who also showed support for the bill, to get “this done as quickly as possible.”
Under what Johnson called his “innovative” proposal, funding for housing and transportation, agriculture, energy and water programs, and military and veterans affairs would continue through Jan. 19. Other programs would be funded until Feb. 2.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture had said last month that funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, would only last through December if the government shut down. The House spending bill now ensures that the program will be funded through February.
In addition, the measure would delay Republican hopes of making significant cuts to SNAP. The assistance program needs to be reapproved every few years under the Farm Bill. Republicans had hoped to make changes to the program when Congress takes up the law later this year. However, the continuing resolution would extend funding through Sept. 30.
Johnson told reporters that by dividing up the continuing resolution into two parts, Congress would have more time to fully debate 12 separate appropriations bills that must be passed to end the ongoing threat of shutdowns. Conservatives are expected to demand a significant cut in federal spending, which the Democratic-controlled Senate and President Biden oppose. Johnson promised “stringent fights” are ahead.
At the same time, he said the measure would prevent a shutdown that “would unduly harm the American people. Troops wouldn't be paid. So we have to avoid that and we have a responsibility to do it.”
Advocates and Democrats, meanwhile, raised concerns that the short-term measure could worsen the financial situation for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, or WIC. The continuing resolution would mean funding for the program for pregnant women and new mothers would be spared from running out at the end of December. But the Agriculture Department has said that states have not been receiving enough funding to keep up with an unexpected increase in the number of low-income women seeking help to feed themselves and their children.
To deal with the shortfall, the department in October gave states four months of funding to be used over three months. However, the department warned at the time that because it is giving states the additional funding early, it will run out of money unless Congress increases funding for the program. The short-term measure means funding will not increase for another two months.
“If you're a WIC director, and you don't see money coming into your program, you are going to be loath to continue to fund new WIC applicants when you don't know what the total amount of money is going to be down the road,” said Ellen Teller, chief government affairs officer for the Food Research & Action Center. “So our concern is that WIC directors will stop taking new applications.”
Some states with surpluses could fund the program before turning women away, she said. But the states with the greatest need for the program might not be in the financial position to spend as much.
Still, state and local officials applauded the House vote.
About 3.5 million federal workers, many of them in the military, will likely not have to spend the holidays working without pay, as would have happened during a shutdown. Local officials had worried that their economies would suffer because the workers would have to spend less at local businesses.
State and local workers funded by the federal government also could have been furloughed.