Democrats’ Resolution to Avoid Government Shutdown Approved by the House

By Katherine Goelz 

On Monday, September 21, House Democrats submitted a continuing resolution (CR) to keep all federal agencies open and funded until December 11. The previous funding package only had enough funds to keep the government running until September 30, the end of the current fiscal year. The CR also contained a provision to halt federal employee furloughs and allocated additional money to the Census Bureau.    

However, Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, rejected the CR. McConnell stated that the Senate would not pass any bill that did not include funds for the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC). The CCC provides federal assistance to farmers by stabilizing farm income and prices. The CCC also maintains “balanced and adequate supplies of agricultural commodities and aids in their orderly distribution.” 

House Republican Tom Cole also criticized the bill because it did not contain additional funding for the Coronavirus Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) food assistance program. House Democrats indicated that they removed the P-EBT food assistance, which was backed by Democrats, and the CCC farm aid, which was backed by President Trump, in an effort to steer the resolution away from the appearance of political partisanship. 

Democrats also indicated that they were concerned that the farm aid would be misappropriated as a “political slush fund” and a “Big Oil bailout” based on a report that the Trump administration was considering using CCC funds to provide $300 million to oil companies. The money was to be given to refinery owners who had been denied exemptions from the EPA’s biofuel regulations under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The RFS mandates that either refiners blend their fuel with biofuels, such as ethanol, or purchase credits from refiners who do. The RFS has generated a massive demand for corn, which is the main material used to produce ethanol.  

On Tuesday evening, September 22, Speaker Pelosi announced that she had reached an agreement with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Republicans to provide close to $8 billion to the P-EBT food assistance program. The revised CR also increased oversight over the CCC funds, to ensure that the aid is allocated to farmers instead of oil companies.  The CR passed the House by a vote of 359 to 57. It will need to be approved by the Senate and signed by President Trump in order to prevent the looming government shutdown.

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