Continuing Resolution Would Avoid Shutdown

At the end of last week, the House of Representatives passed a seven-week continuing resolution with a 301-123 vote, taking a step towards avoiding another government shutdown at the fiscal year deadline.
The CR would fund agencies at 2019 levels through Nov. 21, buying lawmakers more time to negotiate over several full-year appropriations bills.
The Senate, which is expected to take up the continuing resolution next week, must pass some sort of short-term funding solution by Sept. 30.
Notably, the CR includes an additional $48 million for the Office of Personnel Management, which faces a funding shortfall on Oct. 1 when the National Background Investigations Bureau and the governmentwide security clearance portfolio transfers to the Pentagon.
The Trump administration has said the security clearance transfer will create a $70 million gap for OPM, which relied on the revenue it received by processing background investigations and other security credentials to fund other entities within the agency.
In addition, the CR gives OPM to authority to transfer roughly $29.7 million from “appropriate trust funds … without regard to any other provision of law” to maintain agency operations.
OPM administers health and retirement benefits to more than 2.7 million active employees and nearly 2.6 million annuitants, survivors and their family members through the Earned Benefits Trust Funds, which have close to $1 trillion in combined assets.
Former OPM officials, as well as former acting OPM Director and Office of Management and Budget Deputy Director for Management Margaret Weichert, have long questioned whether the agency could tap a greater portion of those trust funds to support the agency’s operations. This continuing resolution would allow OPM to do that up to a point.
The agency, however, still faces an uncertain future. Beyond OPM’s financial situation, the Trump administration has cited poor IT systems and strategic and operational weaknesses as reasons for the proposed merger of the agency with the General Services Administration.
Weichert, who has been spearheading the OPM-GSA merger, said back in July OMB would ask Congress for an OPM budget anomaly in a 2020 continuing resolution. She said she saw promising signs of support from Congress on the merger.
Still, both chambers of Congress have made no indication of support for the administration’s proposed OPM-GSA merger.
The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday morning cleared an additional $43 million for OPM next year. The extra funding is part of the 2020 financial services and general government appropriations bill and matches a proposal in the House-passed version of this bill.
The full Senate has yet to take up a single appropriations bill. The House has passed 10 of 12 spending measures earlier this summer. Lawmakers seemed relatively confident a seven-week CR would give them enough time to finish a longer-term funding deal.

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