As a lame-duck Congress heads into its dwindling session, legislators are being forced to reckon with the continuing resolutions passed to fund government activities earlier this year: They expire on December 7, at which point Congress needs to pass a real appropriations bill to keep the government open.
Unfortunately, Democrats and Republicans are at loggerheads over what’s going to be in that bill — and the result could be a partial government shutdown. Again.
Congress must take up seven separate spending bills – each with its own riders and heated debate — and get them signed by the president. Meanwhile, some related key legislation also needs to be resolved, from flood insurance to the Farm Bill.
Among the bones of contention are the Violence Against Women Act, which needs a funding reauthorization to provide a broad range of services designed to combat physical and sexual violence. This includes rape prevention, restorative justice and providing tribal governments with tools they can use to fight sexual assault on reservations.
Members of Congress pushing for sexual harassment regulations on Capitol Hill have also suggested that they might attach their legislation to a major bill, such as this one.
The Farm Bill is a topic of concern as well. This bulky piece of legislation is extremely critical for funding a variety of activities, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — SNAP, also known as food stamps. House Republicans want to add work requirements to SNAP, something Democrats are heatedly opposed to — and the Senate version of the bill doesn’t include them.
Another significant issue is Trump’s border wall. The president has threatened to veto any appropriations bill that doesn’t provide the funding he wants for a project Democrats oppose, and a growing number of Republicans think is wasteful.
With the US government firing tear gas at asylum seekers on the border last weekend, the dysfunctional approach to immigration in the United States was on full display — and this will become a sticking point as debate on the bill unfolds.
Foreign aid is on the agenda too, with the Trump administration threatening to cut aid that some say is vital not just to US diplomacy, but also national security. For instance, targeted interventions to address issues like drug trafficking can benefit the US, in addition to its allies.
Meanwhile, Democrats want to attach protections for Robert Mueller to the appropriations bill, ensuring that the special counsel will be able to work unimpeded as he investigates connections between the Trump campaign and Russia. Concerns among those who want to see the investigation carried out are growing after the departure of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Members of Congress also want more money for disaster recovery — especially in California, where wildfires have left tens of thousands of people homeless. The government also needs to reauthorize a flood insurance program.
No pressure, Congress!
One of the problems with funding fights like these is that it makes it difficult for agencies and organizations who rely on this funding to do their work. Imagine if you’re a group providing rape crisis services, and you have no idea whether you’ll get any funding after December 7. Or if you’re a realtor working in a flood-prone area trying to sell homes without knowing the status of the flood insurance program.
That’s why Congress must resolve these issues immediately — and the clock is ticking. It’s critical to call your senators and representative to tell them you want action on addressing the appropriations bills and outstanding reauthorizations — VAWA, the Farm Bill and flood insurance.
If you don’t want to feel like you’re throwing everything but the kitchen sink at them, pick a few issues that you think are especially important. Maybe for you that’s keeping work requirements out of the Farm Bill, reauthorizing VAWA and protecting Mueller. Or denying funding for the border wall, providing disaster funds to California and re-upping the flood insurance program.
Make your case and tell a friend to do the same!