Back from its long August recess, Congress must quickly move forward on the task that has eluded it all year: Reaching agreement on plans to fund the government in Fiscal 2015, now only three weeks away.
In addition, lawmakers are planning on a particularly light schedule this month because they want more time to persuade constituents to return them to office.
Another government shutdown appears unlikely. But the failure of Congress once again to move forward through the regular budget process this year is wasteful and irresponsible, making it impossible for federal agencies to plan effectively for the coming year.
Congress is expected to approve a continuing resolution that would fund the government until after the November election. Although the White House and lawmakers seek some adjustments, the stop-gap measure would generally continue current funding levels.
While there seems to be little alternative to this now, it means lawmakers are spending money without taking into account many recent developments and shifts in national priorities.
“Do a quick kick and get out of town,” said Robert L. Bixby, executive director of The Concord Coalition. “This has kind of become the new regular order. It’s not a good thing, but it’s better than a shutdown.”
There could be even more waste if Congress postpones final 2015 spending legislation until early next year, as some Republicans have suggested. Under any realistic scenario, neither party will be in a position to dictate fiscal policy. So bipartisan compromise will still be required.
With that in mind, this Congress should try to quickly get its job done on the 2015 budget — ideally with responsible financing for any new spending or tax cuts.
That would clear the decks for the next Congress to get started on a more timely and effective budget process for Fiscal 2016.
Welcome Back, Congress (Peterson Foundation)
Congress Is Back. Its Mission: Keep Government Open. (National Journal)
For Congress, Light Work Schedule Matches Legislative Goals (N.Y. Times)