Last week, Congress adjourned for its traditional August recess, leaving unfinished business, and an unclear path forward, on the Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 appropriations bills—bills essential to keeping the federal government open once the current fiscal year ends on September 30. This is a common refrain. 1994 was the last time Congress passed all 12 appropriations bills before the fiscal year ended.
Most of the 12 funding bills have passed the House and Senate Appropriations Committees and are awaiting floor action where they will either be considered individually, or, more likely, as part of a larger omnibus spending package. Before leaving for the August recess, the House of Representatives passed a minibus spending measure that included 4 bills funding, among other things, the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security. Rumors abound that the remaining 8 appropriations bills will be merged with the 4-bill security appropriations bill and sent to the House floor in September. The U.S. Senate leadership has neither expressed enthusiasm for this approach nor indicated yet what its strategy will be for moving FY 2018 appropriations bills. Given this uncertainty and the tight time frame, Congress may pass a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the federal government operating after September 30.
While the FY 2018 funding outlook for all federal statistical agencies is bleak, APDU is particularly concerned about the Census Bureau. Neither the House nor Senate FY 2018 Commerce, Justice, Science appropriations bills provide the agency with sufficient funding to prepare for Census 2020. Further, if Congress passes a CR, census stakeholders worry the legislation may not provide the agency with a funding anomaly—an outcome that would further hinder keeping even limited Census 2020 preparations on track.
APDU will continue to monitor these developments and work with other organizations to ensure all federal statistical agencies receive sufficient funding and support in FY 2018. At the APDU annual meeting next month, participants will hear from an expert panel of Washington insiders who will address not only the current state of appropriations, but also how data users and stakeholders can more effectively represent the needs of statistical agencies when communicating with policymakers.