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When House and Senate lawmakers kicked off formal budget negotiations this week for the first time since the government shutdown ended, both Republicans and Democrats said replacing sequestration, the blunt across-the-board budget cuts, with an alternative plan would be a top priority. The sticking point remains how to pay for it. Federal-employee unions and advocacy groups fear federal pay and benefits will once again be on the table.
The bill passed by Congress reopening the federal government after a two-week shutdown grants retroactive pay for furloughed federal workers and clears the way for all federal employees to receive a 1 percent pay raise in January. The continuing resolution, which funds government operations through Jan. 15, also grants agencies some spending flexibilities to avoid sequestration-related furloughs over the next few months.
The Senate and House both voted Wednesday night, passing a bill that reopens the government and funds agencies through Jan. 15, permits the Treasury to borrow normally through Feb. 7, and provides back pay for federal employees furloughed during the 16-day government shutdown. The bill now heads to President Barack Obama for his signature, which he has said he will sign immediately.
Two weeks into a government shutdown that has hamstrung federal agencies and sent large sections of their employees home without pay, Congress is heading for another last-minute showdown — this time over raising the government's borrowing authority, known as the debt ceiling.
House Republicans unveiled a proposal that would give the Treasury authority to borrow normally through Feb. 7 and reopen the government with enough money to last until Jan. 15. The White House quickly rejected the plan.