July 24, 2014

No Budget in Sight, Congress Moves to Avoid a Government Shutdown

  • The federal budget process is a mixture of rules, timelines and norms that work together to influence policy decisions. It shapes how the...

Before leaving Washington last week until after the election, Congress passed a continuing resolution (CR) to prevent a government shutdown. This was necessary because Congress failed to pass any of the 12 appropriations bills needed to fund the government in the new fiscal year. For the first time since the modern budget process was created in 1974, neither the House nor the Senate passed a budget resolution.

Under the CR, most agencies will be funded through Dec. 3 at FY 2010 enacted levels. This will enable Congress to delay further action on appropriations bills until after the election.  When Congress returns, the next step will likely be debate over an omnibus bill combining several appropriations bills.

With few exceptions, Congress resisted pressure to fund specific programs above FY 2010 levels.  When offsets are taken into account, the Appropriations Committees estimated that total funding in the continuing resolution is $8.2 billion below the FY 2010 level.

The fiscally responsible course of action would have been for Congress to pass a budget resolution and consider appropriations bills using the regular process.  However, given that a CR was necessary, Congress at least passed a relatively clean resolution that excluded many requested add-ons.