Government affairs

Legislative Updates

Government shuts down for three days, re-opens after another short-term deal

At midnight on Friday, the government went into partial shutdown mode following the Senate’s failure to reach 60 votes needed to pass a four-week temporary funding measure, known as a continuing resolution (CR). The measure, known as the “Extension of Continuing Appropriations Act,” an amendment to H.R. 195 (an otherwise unrelated bill), was passed by the House of Representatives on Thursday evening and was meant to buy legislators more time to come to a long-term deal. Following a weekend in session to negotiate the reopening of the government, today the House and Senate reached agreement on a three-week deal through Feb. 8.

Throughout the entire process, Democrats were frustrated with congressional Republican leadership and the Trump administration because of a breakdown of a bipartisan deal on immigration reform, specifically on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) echoing Democratic concerns. Republican leadership expressed its frustration by suggesting that Democrats were essentially holding the government hostage.

In the end, the final vote succeeded because of a bipartisan group of senators who encouraged Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to commit to bringing up a standalone vote on immigration and DACA in the subsequent weeks.

H.R. 195 includes an extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for six years (through 2023), and suspends or delays three health-related taxes that were enacted as part of the 2010 health care overhaul for one or two years: the medical device tax, the tax on high-value employer-sponsored health insurance plans (the “Cadillac” tax) and annual fees on health insurance companies. Additionally, the Senate agreed to S. Con. Res. 33, a resolution that calls for retroactive pay for furloughed federal employees during the shutdown and any potential further shutdowns in 2018.

The lead-up to and aftermath of the shutdown came with a significant amount of blame-trading between the parties. Ultimately, there is one-party control of the government and despite seeing this coming, the Republicans were unable to craft a bill to avoid it. This was the first-ever shutdown with a single party in control of the White House and both congressional chambers.

As letter carriers are aware, a shutdown has no effect on the U.S. Postal Service, as USPS operates on postage alone and accepts no taxpayer money. However, other federal employees were furloughed while members of Congress continued to be paid as is written in law. The 16-day shutdown in 2013 contributed to an estimated $24 billion loss to the country’s economy, and more than 800,000 federal employees were affected.

Ahead of the recent shutdown, Rep. Donald Beyer (D-VA) introduced H.R. 4827, which would provide for the compensation of federal employees furloughed during a government shutdown. Since introduction, the bill has gained 84 co-sponsors, including six Republicans: Reps. Tom Cole (R-OK), Barbara Comstock (R-VA), Robert Wittman (R-VA), Morgan Griffith (R-VA), Elise Stefanik (R-NY) and Rob Bishop (R-UT).

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