Outlook does not look bad, but it's not looking too good, either.
This week, with newly elected Speaker Johnson presiding, Congressional Republicans met behind closed doors to discuss options for a continuing resolution (CR) to avert a shutdown by funding the government at existing levels for a short period. Currently, there are only a handful of possibilities under consideration. Of those, the most likely options are:
A “clean” CR – meaning one that continues funding for the federal government at existing levels with no changes or policy “rider” attachments. This bill would most likely be crafted to extend funding into January, giving Congressional leaders time to negotiate a permanent spending package. This is the option favored by most of the Republican Conference, and is also the most likely to pass both chambers.
A mostly clean CR, with funding for Israel and/or Ukraine, and other international crises (including the southern border) attached. This is what Senate leadership is suggesting is the best (and possibly only) path forward, as the Senate is far more unified in its support for sending aid to the Ukrainian government than the House.
A “laddered” CR – meaning one that separates out funding into two or more pieces, with the first hard date in December and a subsequent one in January. This would enable members to tackle government funding in slightly smaller bites. The appeal here is that House Republicans have previously expressed concern about funding the government en-masse through “omnibus” legislation (massive bills spanning well over 4,000 pages), and they believe that by breaking up the bills, they can work through issues more effectively, while also forcing Senate Democrats to the negotiating table. This bill is almost certainly dead-on-arrival in the Senate, and would be expected to also struggle mightily in the House, as while the idea has early support from influential groups including the Freedom Caucus, the Republican Study Committee, and Speaker Johnson, many Republican leaders are publicly skeptical and/or outright opposed to this bill.
The bottom line is that there is still no single consensus plan to avoid a government shutdown on November 18th. If Speaker Johnson pursues a laddered CR, the odds of a shutdown increase substantially.
With no hope of Senate consideration, much less passage, that option leaves no breathing room for negotiation. Moreover, given the impending deadline, it is unlikely that Congress will get two attempts to pass a funding bill before the government shuts down.
NSBA is actively working to ensure Congressional leadership is aware of the dangers a shutdown poses for small companies, and we will continue to provide updates as we have them.