Congress approved a short-term extension for its funding bill, pushing the expiration date to midnight on December 21. The political clash over spending priorities—mostly centered on the border wall and immigration—looks certain to dominate discourse in Washington for the next two weeks, and possibly much longer if a shutdown actually occurs or Congress only keeps the government open with one or a series of short-term measures. That functionally means that anyone, or any industry, attempting to advance a key policy initiative in Congress is in limbo until further notice.
For the travel community, reauthorization of Brand USA remains the central priority for the remainder of the 115th Congress. And thanks to the tireless work by our members and travel industry allies, our champions in Congress on both sides of the aisle, and our partners in the Visit U.S. Coalition, we are as well-positioned as we could possibly be to realize that goal, despite the fraught political landscape.
U.S. Travel’s government relations team has examined every scenario that could play out from the budget battle, and we’re pleased to say there are a number of paths forward for Brand USA this year.
The best-case scenario: Congress averts a shutdown by passing an omnibus spending measure—essentially, one large catch-all funding bill—that includes a reauthorization of Brand USA through 2027. While this is our ideal outcome, it is not the only path forward.
If Congress chooses to pass an omnibus spending measure without a Brand USA fix, there will be other opportunities to secure the program’s reauthorization in another vehicle in the first quarter of 2019.
Congress may vote on another short-term resolution that would keep the government funded for a limited amount of time while negotiations continue. The short-term resolution could result in: the passage of an omnibus with or without Brand USA; another long-term resolution (which could also result in the passage of an omnibus with or without Brand USA); or, if subsequent negotiations ultimately fail, a government shutdown at a later date.
If no deal that includes Brand USA is reached, the opportunity to get the program reauthorized in Q1 will remain.
A government shutdown could end in the passage of an omnibus or a long-term continuing resolution into next year which may also include Brand USA. If a Brand USA fix is not included, there will still be another opportunity to get a deal done in Q1.
Of the many initiatives sidelined by the budget debate, Brand USA is among the best positioned, with a course charted for every scenario moving past next Friday. More than 580 travel industry organizations signed a letter sent to members of Congress this week touting the many economic benefits of Brand USA, and urging Congress to act on the program’s reauthorization. Last month, 36 Republicans and 34 Democrats signed a similar letter to House leadership, and U.S. Travel members have penned numerous op-eds in support of Brand USA. U.S. Travel will continue to push Congress toward Brand USA’s inclusion in a funding bill, and is confident that the program will be ultimately be reauthorized, as it has been in the past with overwhelming bipartisan support.