Congress on Friday morning entered into a brief government shutdown for the second time this year before lawmakers passed a two-year budget deal raising federal spending caps and a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government funded through March 23, giving lawmakers time to resolve appropriations details for a final fiscal year (FY) 2018 budget, which will finalize funding for award year 2018-19.
The two-year budget deal, announced earlier this week, is a positive step and was a necessary action for Congress to take in order to pass a FY 2018 budget. The deal will raise spending caps by $300 billion — to $579 billion in FY 2018 and to $597 billion in FY 2019. It also included a pledge to expand funding by $4 billion over two years for college affordability — though the details were not specified and still need to be determined by congressional leaders — and more than $80 billion in disaster relief. The disaster relief provisions included $100 million for the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) program, without any matching requirements, for institutions in disaster areas.
The budget deal also included a provision that would allow the Secretary of Education to suspend cohort default rate (CDR) sanctions for public institutions that offer an associate degree in an economically depressed area.
Ahead of the vote on the deal, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said America "will be safer and stronger" because of the agreement.
"With this agreement, we are breaking the logjam on a number of priorities for the American people," Ryan said in a statement. "More budget reforms are needed, which is why we are laying the foundation for a better process."
In the days leading up to the vote, it was unclear if there would be enough support from Democrats in the House to pass the bill. Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) spoke for more than eight hours on the House floor on Wednesday, protesting the deal because it did not include a long-term fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. Congress has until March 5 to come to an agreement on immigration reform and pass a long-term solution for "Dreamers" before the program ends. In the end, Pelosi said that although she would not vote in favor of the bill, she was not actively encouraging other Democrats to oppose it.
Meanwhile, conservative Republicans also opposed the bill, albeit for different reasons. The House Freedom Caucus on Wednesday came out officially opposing the bill.
"We support funding our troops, but growing the size of government by 13 percent is not what the voters sent us here to do," the caucus said on Twitter.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) defended the budget deal, saying Democrats have argued it’s necessary to fund both defense and non-defense discretionary programs.
"I am proud to say our budget does both," he said on Twitter. "What does this budget really do? It provides billions to support for community health centers, child care, disaster relief, to rebuild [and] improve veterans hospitals [and] clinics, to lower prescription drug costs for seniors, to make college more affordable, [and] to fix infrastructure."
Publication Date: 2/9/2018