Agreement on Final FY2015 Appropriations Hits Snag

Agreement on Final FY2015 Appropriations Hits Snag

Efforts by congressional leaders to pass a new FY2015 appropriations bill by midnight Thursday to avoid a government shutdown hit a snag last night.  Although it is certainly possible still to complete action by Thursday, it would require agreement not only on outstanding policy issues, but skipping over some procedural steps.

The government is currently operating under a Continuing Resolution (CR) that expires at midnight on Thursday, December 11.  Congress needs to pass some type of appropriations bill — another CR or full-year appropriations or a combination of both — before then or there will be another shutdown as there was last year.   (It is common to refer to a “government shutdown” although some parts of government do continue operating, including programs and services funded by fees rather than appropriations and those involving safety of life and property.)

A new FY2015 appropriations bill combining funding for departments and agencies covered by 11 of the 12 regular appropriations bills through the end of the fiscal year (September 30, 2015) and the 12th for a shorter period of time was expected to be introduced by midnight last night (Monday).   The one bill that would not be funded through the end of the fiscal year is for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which includes immigration.   As a signal of Republican disapproval of President Obama’s executive order on immigration, DHS would be funded by a CR until January when Republicans will control both the House and Senate and will have more power to shape the congressional response to the President’s executive order.  This combination is sometimes referred to as a “cromnibus” — a mix of a CR and an omnibus spending measure. 

Ordinarily, bills must be made publicly available to Members of the House at least three days prior to a vote and since the vote is needed Thursday, the three day clock is already ticking.

However, disagreements over reauthorizing the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) and modifying financial regulations under the Dodd-Frank law are still being worked according to media reports.  In addition, some Republicans are opposed to funding any agencies to the end of the fiscal year.  They want a short term CR for everyone until they control both the House and Senate.

No information has been made public about how any of those departments and agencies have fared in negotiations to date.  NASA would receive a significant increase compared to the President’s request if the final bill resembles what passed the House and was approved the Senate Appropriations Committee this year.  NOAA satellite programs also generally fared well.  

The goal has been for this 113th Congress to adjourn on Thursday, but an extension is quite possible.  At least four scenarios could play out:

  • The cromnibus could be introduced today and pass the House on Thursday without the standard three-day waiting period, and Democrats and Republicans in the Senate could reach agreement to waive certain procedural steps, pass it, and get the bill on the President’s desk for signature before midnight on Thursday.
  • The cromnibus could be introduced today and a very short-term (from a day to a week) CR could be passed to give everyone time to read whatever bill emerges from the ongoing negotiations, with the expectation that it will pass on Friday or early next week.
  • A short-term (till January) CR could pass to leave the decisions to the new Republican-controlled Congress, which is scheduled to convene on January 6.
  • No bill could pass and there could be another government shutdown.

Republican and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate have made clear that they do not want another shutdown, so that seems the least likely outcome.

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