Congress is leaving town with almost all of the FY 2007 funding bills still on Capitol Hill. With the exception of the now-passed FY 2007 Department of Defense Appropriations Bill, and perhaps the funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security, current funding will, for the most part, continue through November 17 for all other departments and agencies. The new fiscal year starts on October 1.
House Majority Leader John Boehner's (R-OH) remarks from earlier this week aptly summarized the thinking of many when he said "We have got to come to some answers on how we complete the appropriations process. I do not want the appropriations process to carry over into next year. . . . it just delays action on next year's work. And I would like to get it finished this year."
When Congress is unable to pass one or more appropriations bills by the start of a fiscal year it passes a continuing resolution to maintain funding. Under the continuing resolution that will be implemented, the funding rate is the lowest figure in the House or Senate-passed bills, or the funding level now in place. The only bills to have passed both the House and Senate are the Defense and Homeland Security bills. Neither chamber has passed the Labor/HHS/Education appropriations bill. The result: except for the Defense bill which is on its way to President Bush, and the Homeland Security bill which might be cleared, all other budgets tracked by FYI will remain at the current funding level except for those budgets for which the House or Senate approved a cut.
There are many controversial issues that will need to be resolved before final passage of the FY 2007 appropriations bills. While congressional staff will be working through these bills while Members of Congress are away, there is a very good chance that there will be additional continuing resolutions.
There are three major options for how the final bills might be passed. The first, and that which House and Senate appropriators prefer, is for each of the remaining bills to be passed as a stand-alone bill in what they call "an open and orderly manner." This will take considerable floor time, something which might be in short supply, given that there is a desire to complete these bills this year by the current Congress. The second, more likely option, will be for two or more of the bills to be combined into an "omnibus" funding bill. An omnibus is assembled by a limited number of individuals, and comes to the floor largely without the opportunity for change. This bill would take much less time to pass, and has the distinct advantage of being a vehicle for controversial provisions that could slow passage of an individual funding bill. The third option, which is far more unlikely, is continuing the present level of funding for an entire year, until October 1, 2007.
How this will be resolved is unknown. Said one Senate appropriations subcommittee chairman, "We'll see what the leadership wants to do after the elections."
For a review of the current status of FY 2007 appropriations bills, see the lower portion ("Latest Congressional Budget Action") at http://www.aip.org/gov/budginfo.html
FYI #117 will review the final FY 2007 funding numbers for the Department of Defense's 6.1 Basic Research, 6.2 Applied Research, and 6.3 Advanced Technology Development programs. The House and Senate have passed this legislation, which is now on its way to President Bush.