WASHINGTON — Industry concerns are mounting over another potential government shutdown, as lawmakers on Capitol Hill scrambled Thursday to find the votes necessary to pass a $1.1 trillion spending bill before a fast-approaching midnight deadline.
In yet another high stakes political drama that has significant implications for businesses and the economy, House leaders went into recess Thursday afternoon, leaving the massive spending bill in limbo, after barely mustering enough votes to pass a rule to debate it earlier in the day.
If Congress fails to pass the bill by midnight, the government will shut down unless lawmakers are able to agree on a short-term continuing resolution to keep the government funded until they can resolve the issues in the new legislation. While leaders are expected to pass a short-term resolution, there are no guarantees in the acrimonious atmosphere on Capitol Hill.
The brinksmanship raised the specter of the 16-day government shutdown in October 2013 that negatively impacted the economy.
Juanita Duggan, president and chief executive officer of the American Apparel & Footwear Association, made the bill a “key vote,” urging lawmakers to vote “yes.”
“Avoiding a government shutdown and keeping the government funded through the current fiscal year 2015 are essential to the apparel and footwear industry,” Duggan said in a letter to lawmakers. “Please vote yes on this important measure to keep the government open and functioning.
“Last year’s shutdown, for example, depressed sales of clothing and footwear as consumers delayed or decided against making purchases. Lower sales, in turn, depress tax revenues, decrease incomes, and lead to job losses,” Duggan said. “As our economy continues to emerge from a fragile recovery, we cannot afford the uncertainty and disruption of another shutdown.”
The spending package under consideration, which has been dubbed “cromnibus,” would keep federal agencies funded through September 2015, except for the Department of Homeland Security, which would only get an extension through Feb. 27. Republicans deliberately gave the DHS, which oversees many immigration issues, a shorter extension because they are seeking to challenge President Obama’s executive action on immigration next year.
But the legislation has run into steep opposition from House Democrats angered by a provision that would roll back some of the Wall Street reforms passed in the Dodd-Frank regulatory overhaul bill and also allow wealthy political donors to substantially increase their donations to political parties. A group of House Republicans has also voiced opposition to the bill, arguing it falls short of addressing President Obama’s action on immigration.
The annual spending bill, if passed and signed into law, would increase the budgets of the U.S. Trade Representative’s office and the Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration, two key agencies the industry works closely with in Washington.
The bill would increase USTR’s budget to $54.2 million from the current level of $52.6 million. The funding will help boost the agency, which is aiming to wrap up negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership accord with 11 countries, including Vietnam, the second largest apparel supplier to the U.S. and is also in the early stages of talks on a trade deal with the European Union, a key export market for U.S. products.
The International Trade Administration, a division of the Commerce Department that is leading Obama’s National Export Initiative and houses the Office of Textiles and Apparel, would see a funding increase of $2 million to $472 million in the fiscal year.
The bill would maintain funding levels for Customs and Border Protection, which is part of the DHS, at $10.5 billion.