Federal workers relieved, for now, as calls grow for a long term solution to government funding

Federal workers around the D.C. region are breathing a sigh of relief on Sunday after Congress passed a short term funding bill on Saturday night to keep the government running. But that funding doesn’t mean the government is out of the woods.

The stopgap deal means the government has enough money to stay open for 45 days.

“Of course, it’s better than the alternative, but it’s not a long term solution,” said Max Stier, president of the non-partisan group Partnership for Public Service. “The solution is to have Congress do its job and that means at a minimum passing appropriations that are for a full year, and ideally, we would find a way to create multi-year appropriations or at least multi-year budgeting,” Stier said.

He said these stop gap funding bills, called Continuing Resolutions are disruptive and expensive.

“It’s the equivalent of knowing you’re going to eat a whole loaf of bread. But you buy the bread loaf, slice by slice,” he said. “It’s really a poor way to manage.”

Stier also said it’s important for more Americans to understand the long-term damage a government shutdown could cause.

Along with hundreds of thousands of federal employees and military service members who would be furloughed or forced to work without pay, hiring and training would freeze for the men and women who keep the country safe, including air traffic controllers and border security officers. Nearly 400,000 D.C.-area residents work for the federal government.

The majority of government programs, like Social Security and Medicaid would still be funded, but other programs and agencies would be impacted, like FEMA, the IRS, the National Park Service and the WIC Nutrition Assistance Program for woman and children.

During the last government shutdown from 2018 to 2019, which lasted for 35 days, Smithsonian Museums and the National Zoo were forced to close.

The package passed Saturday night by Congress funds government at current 2023 levels until mid-November, and also extends other provisions, including for the Federal Aviation Administration. The package was approved by the House 335-91, with most Republicans and almost all Democrats supporting. Senate passage came by an 88-9 vote.

The outcome ends, for now, the threat of a shutdown, but the reprieve may be short-lived. Congress will again need to fund the government in coming weeks risking a crisis as views are hardening, particularly among the right-flank lawmakers whose demands were ultimately swept aside this time in favor of a more bipartisan approach.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Shayna Estulin

Shayna Estulin is an anchor/reporter for WTOP. She started her career in New York City as a local TV reporter and has since covered foreign affairs and national politics as a Washington correspondent. She also anchored a nightly news show for an international network.

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