Before leaving for the August recess, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced an agreement on a six-month continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government through March at a level consistent with the $1.047 trillion cap included in last year’s Budget Control Act (BCA).
Boehner said that congressional staff will write the legislative language over the August recess so the House and Senate can consider it in September. Reid said that the agreement “will provide stability for the coming months“ and White House Press Secretary Jay Carney called it “a welcome development.”
If enacted in September, the CR would avert a government shutdown while delaying difficult choices on spending until after the election. The CR is necessary because Congress has yet to complete any of the 12 appropriations bills necessary to fund the government in the fiscal year that begins in October.
A dispute over the overall funding allocation for the bills has delayed them. The President and Senate Democrats supported the levels in the BCA while House Republicans had proposed cutting spending below those levels.
It is somewhat encouraging that the agreement could avert a government shutdown. However, it is disappointing that Congress has once again ducked the difficult choices.
Funding government agencies through a CR places most programs on automatic pilot and reduces opportunities for trade-offs such as cutting ineffective programs and adding funds for effective ones. These decisions should be at the heart of a fiscally responsible budget process. A return to the traditional budget process that includes a budget resolution and timely approval of individual appropriations bills is long overdue.