Thursday, March 21, 2013

Continuing Resolution to Fund the Government Passed

The Senate passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) yesterday to keep the federal government running through the end of the fiscal year. While the bill was passed a few days later then expected, it was passed in time to avoid the government shutdown that would happen when the current continuing resolution to fund the government expires on March 27th. The House of Representatives passed the Senate’s bill this morning with bipartisan support.

The CR included concessions from both Republicans and Democrats. Both parties seemed to be more willing to make concessions in the short term so they can focus on a full budget resolution for the next fiscal year. According to the Washington Post, House Republicans compromised for bill that locks in the sequester cuts for the rest of the year even though they were holding out for further entitlement reform, and Democrats who wanted to reverse the sequester agreed to leave it in place for now.

Politico reports that the CR includes detailed appropriations for two-thirds of this year’s discretionary spending, as opposed to broad language. Funds were added back to some programs, but further cuts were made to other programs to balance out. The measure gave back $21 million of the $51 million that was cut from the Food Inspection Service in hopes that mean inspection interruptions would be minimized. On the other side, however, the Federal Aviation Administration will still have to cut rural air traffic controllers as ordered under the original sequestration measures.

Since the House and Senate have very different plans when it comes to social safety net and health care programs, non-defense entitlement programs were not changed in the CR. This leaves in place the sequestration cuts effecting the Department of Health and Human Services that went into effect on March 1st.

The bill will now head to President Obama’s desk, where his signature is expected. With the government funded for the next six months, the House and Senate will begin talks into creating a 2014 budget that can be passed by both houses of Congress. The House and Senate have both released budget proposals, but both are currently too partisan to pass the other house and be signed into law. 

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