The Current State of Play in Washington: After yet another tragedy this week with the mass shooting at the Navy Yard, Congress is back to work. We would like to ensure we recognize those who lost their lives in this tragic event. The families impacted from lost lives were not just military families but civilians who worked as contractors in an environment where they felt they were safe and serving their country in their own way. Our hearts and thoughts extended to those families just blocks from not just the Capitol but many of our homes, parks and schools. As a result, gun issues are back on the table but few see any movement forward.

Congressional focus at the moment is on the budget, the debt ceiling and the Affordable Health Care Act (ACA) that begins in earnest in January of 2014. As you recall, Congress failed to reach a budget this summer and as a result we are looking at a looming deadline of no funding for the government in place for FY14 as of September 30th. While a continuing resolution (CR) is being discussed, the funding for the health care act seems to be a bargaining chip in this process. The House has approved a continuing resolution for the government to be funded until December 15th with the caveat that no provisions in the ACA be funded. The Senate has stated this bill will not pass and the White House has indicated a veto if by chance the Senate did pass it. So the threat of a government shutdown looms as you have heard on the news. It is likely this will be resolved and the CR will be approved, but a larger issues looms right behind it – the debt ceiling. The debt ceiling has to be raised again to allow the federal government to pay bills and to keep agencies functioning. If the House loses on its efforts for defunding ACA in the CR – then it is likely to be visited again with the Debt Ceiling limit debates begin in earnest this month as well.

Another issue complicating these two issues with the Government’s budget (thus the Department of Education budget impacting our programs) is sequestration which begins in earnest as well at the beginning of 2014. This is another item included in the Debt Ceiling and Budget discussions – eliminating sequestration. The elimination of those provisions will prevent massive cuts in all agencies but doesn’t meet the goals of some members of Congress to slash the deficit. So we have deficit hawks and those who want to keep the agencies funded at 2013 levels playing a game of chicken with only days until the game is over.

This issue changes daily and we will continue to update you as a resolution becomes more clear. Most feel that a government shutdown will not happen in the end but will come very close before true negotiations are held.

- Carol Holladay, ACPA Pubic Policy Liaison

Please read the complete U.S. Capitol Hill Update for September 20, 2013 here.