The federal government runs out of authority to spend money Friday night at midnight, and that means once again, there could be a partial shutdown of the federal government. At least two members of Maine’s congressional delegation believe a showdown will be averted, for now.
Republican leaders are discussing a short-term continuing resolution to continue to run the government and allow work on the two different tax bills passed by the House and Senate. U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee, says a lot of work has been done on the 12 bills aimed at funding government through next October.
“Our bill has been out of committee for months. It was passed unanimously by the Appropriations Committee, and I just wish it would be brought to the Senate floor and we go through the normal process,” she says.
U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine’s 1st District, who serves on the House Appropriations Committee, is not optimistic about action being taken in the House, at least on any long-term funding proposals.
“Absolutely not. It’s a chaotic time in Washington, and government will shut down on Friday if we don’t deal with this issue,” she says.
Pingree says House Republicans are clashing over several issues. Some groups, such as the Freedom Caucus, want a simple continuing resolution for two weeks to allow the tax bill to be finalized. But many of the GOP members of the Armed Services Committee want to lift caps now in place on military spending and boost defense appropriations for the rest of the federal budget year.
Pingree says all of that maneuvering has the potential to cause a shutdown.
“Who knows what will get mixed into this, you know this question of what is in the budget, what is in appropriations, you know, as a way to stop it? The fact is it requires Democrat and Republican votes, generally, to pass a bill and keep the government going,” she says.
Collins says continuing resolutions are not the way to fund government. She says the process locks in outdated spending levels, and ignores the months of work of the appropriations committees in the House and Senate to set new spending priorities, such as tackling the nation’s opioid crisis. But, she says she will support another continuing resolution if absolutely necessary.
“That’s not a good approach, but it is a lot better than letting government shut down,” she says.
Both Collins and Pingree are worried that even if Congress passes a two-week funding resolution, there will no agreement reached on a budget for the rest of the year, and that points to another continuing resolution as all of the unsolved funding issues are pushed into the new year.