New Congress, Same Government Shutdown, and H-2B Cap Relief

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The 115th Congress officially ended at noon on January 3, and the 116th Congress was sworn in that same afternoon. The American electorate’s historic preference for divided government is again the reality; Republicans continue to control the Senate, with 53 of 100 seats, while Democrats control the House, 235 to 199, with one seat still in dispute.

And, the partial government shutdown persists into its third week with no end clearly in sight.  Five of 12 regular appropriations bills were passed in two packages during 2018.  Seven remain, including those for the Departments of Homeland Security and Agriculture, the former being the primary sticking point as President Trump continues to demand $5 billion in funding toward a southern border wall, and Congress continues to refuse the demand.  Congress and the Administration continue negotiations to re-open the impacted federal agencies. A deal could be narrow, or could expand to pair border security investments with other immigration policy reforms.

The landscape industry is bracing for severe seasonal labor shortages this spring and the likelihood that demand for H-2B visas will be roughly triple the available number.  A government funding agreement remains the best vehicle for cap relief.  While there is no clear path forward yet, it is essential that immediate cap relief be included in any agreement.  AmericanHort continues to work with coalition partners and our Congressional champions to ensure that this message is delivered loudly to the President and Congressional leaders.

*Laurie-Ann Flanagan is Executive Vice President at DCLRS with over 20 years of experience in the federal legislative and regulatory process. Laurie and DCLRS work closely with AmericanHort on a variety of issues.

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