Although legislation to replace the No Child Left Behind Act is nearing the finish line, work on annual federal spending bills has hit a snag as Republicans and Democrats have been unable to come to an agreement that would wrap all twelve appropriations bills, including the one funding the U.S. Department of Education, into a massive omnibus spending bill. With the continuing resolution (CR) that is currently keeping the government open set to expire on December 11, time for a compromise is quickly winding down while the odds of a government shutdown are increasing.
These developments are a marked change from late October, when congressional leaders and the White House reached an agreement to raise domestic and military spending caps by $80 billion over two years in one of then-House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) final acts before leaving the U.S. Congress. By setting high spending caps for Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 and 2017, many observers believed that Republicans and Democrats could avoid contentious budget battles until after the 2016 presidential election. This time, however, disagreements center not on money, but attempts to include significant policy changes targeting Obamacare, Syrian refugees, the environment, and others.
If an agreement is not reached by the December 11 deadline, Congress could pass a short-term CR that would allow negotiations to continue or face a government shutdown.