Congress moved one step closer to avoiding a government shutdown on Feb. 6, voting overwhelmingly (245-182) to pass a short-term, GOP-backed government funding bill (text; section-by-section) that would keep the federal government running beyond the midnight Thursday deadline through March 23. The bill also needed to increase budget caps in order to enable congressional appropriators to craft and pass an omnibus appropriations package to fund the government beyond the March 23 deadline. However, this House-passed legislation only raised budget caps for the Department of Defense without raising budget caps for non-defense programs. This, in addition to the fact that the bill did not consider Senate defense priorities, made the passage of the legislation unlikely in the Senate without additional changes.
In order to ensure action prior to the shutdown deadline, Senate leaders then reached a bipartisan agreement to lift both defense and non-defense discretionary budget caps by $160 billion and $128 billion respectively over two years in order to avoid mandatory sequestration cuts and allow the opportunity for Congress to design a long-term appropriations package. The legislation also would raise the debt limit through March 2019, would include some tax break “extenders,” and included a number of provisions meant to garner bipartisan support for the proposal, many of which were healthcare related. Earlier today, the Senate released the health provisions of the 2018 budget agreement (see attached). The Finance Committee is saying small tweaks are forthcoming tonight (Feb. 7) but no material changes. The Senate is expected to take first vote to advance the CR on Thursday (Feb. 8) morning, with a second vote to pass the legislation in the afternoon.