Congress Faces Tight Time Frame for Budget Work

Blog Post
Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Congress will return from its long August recess without having passed a single one of the 12 appropriations bills needed for Fiscal 2016, which begins Oct. 1.

Lawmakers are planning to fall back on a continuing resolution -- a stop-gap measure to allow government spending to generally continue at current levels for a certain period of time. Such a resolution would avoid a shutdown but makes it difficult for federal agencies to plan effectively, increasing the risk of wasteful spending.

With the House already in recess, however, little if any work has been done even on a continuing resolution.

In addition, lawmakers have still not come up with a responsible way to match revenue and spending for transportation programs.

With the Highway Trust Fund nearly out of money, Congress last week passed, and President Obama signed, another temporary patch -- the 34th such measure in six years.

The Senate also approved a flawed 6-year highway bill that may be discussed later in House-Senate negotiations.

A third critical item awaits Congress: a debt limit increase. Lacking such an increase, the Treasury is using “extraordinary measures” to avoid a default.

Urging prompt congressional action, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has indicated these measures could last until late October.

External links:What Is a Continuing Resolution? (Concord Coalition)GOP, Democrats Stake Out Fall Fiscal Stances (MNI)Senate Passes a Highway Bill, But Only for 3 Months (N.Y. Times)July 30 Letter From Treasury Secretary to Congress on Debt LimitCBO Cost Estimate for Transportation Reauthorization