Whether the Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) will receive any funding for fiscal year 2019 remained an open question late Thursday as the House voted to approve a full-year FY 2019 appropriations bill that includes no funding for TMF.

But as a practical matter that bill faces little chance of Senate approval, and the White House yesterday pledged President Trump’s veto of the legislation if a bill made it to his desk. At issue of course is the White House-Congress border wall funding standoff that has shut down portions of the Federal government since Dec. 22.

The House bill–H.R 21–passed last night on a 241-190 vote and would fund for the rest of FY 2019 most of the currently-shut government operations. Separately, the House voted to approve a related resolution that would fund the Department of Homeland Security through next month to permit more negotiations on border security issues.

But whether the elimination of TMF funding reflects true congressional intent remained a cloudier issue. Press reports noted that most of the language in the House bill was lifted directly from already-approved Senate legislation–implying a move to put extra pressure on senators to vote for the House bill, and leading one Hill source to suggest a bit of gamesmanship in the House’s approach.

What remains unknown–and is perhaps more important to the fate of TMF funding in FY 2019–is the work being done by a House-Senate conference committee to reconcile differences in H.R. 6147, the Department of the Interior, Environment, and Regulated Agencies Appropriations Act. The House version of that bill contains $150 million for TMF, but the Senate bill does not include any funding.

A Hill source indicated the conference committee’s work on the bill was close to completion, but any progress on the TMF funding line remained unclear, and may continue to be as long as the larger budget fight continues.

Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, said in October he was “pretty sure that we have resolved the issue with TMF” and expected Congress to approve the full $150 million agreed to by the House. His office did not respond to a request for comment today on H.R. 21.

TMF also has backers in the White House and in Federal CIO Suzette Kent, who have both urged Congress to fund the initiative.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.