Congress is supposed to fund government operations for each fiscal year through 12 regular appropriations bills. However, Congress has often failed to enact such legislation before the start of the fiscal year on Oct. 1.
When some or all of the appropriations bills for the coming year have not been approved by then, Congress can pass one or more "continuing resolutions" to prevent a partial government shutdown. These resolutions allow departments and agencies to continue operations, generally at existing funding levels, while Congress continues to work on final appropriations legislation. Congress may even choose to use a full-year continuing resolution rather than regular appropriations bills.
Continuing resolutions, however, do not take into account changing needs and priorities, and they make it difficult for federal agencies and departments to plan effectively.