Early this morning the House of Representatives approved a Senate-passed measure that will continue, with few exceptions, current levels of federal funding until December 3. Of note, the measure provides additional funding for the National Nuclear Security Administration.
This stop-gap funding measure, known as a continuing resolution, has long been anticipated. Rarely has Congress passed all appropriations bills before October 1, the start of a new fiscal year. Action in the Senate this year has been largely deadlocked as the country approaches November’s election, particularly in the case of spending bills. There is a fundamental disagreement between the parties about the level of discretionary spending (funding which Congress has the discretion to determine every year, as opposed to mandatory spending for programs such as Social Security.) None of the twelve appropriations bills have been enacted.
Under this measure, S. 3081, current levels of funding will continue for about two months, unless other appropriations legislation is passed.
The Senate moved first on this measure, and eventually passed it yesterday by a vote of 69-30. Before doing so, it rejected amendments by two Republican senators. The first amendment would have lengthened the resolution’s date until February 4, 2011. South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint argued that this extended date would allow new senators and representatives to vote on FY 2011 funding levels. His amendment was rejected by a vote of 39-60. A second amendment offered by South Dakota Senator John Thune would have reduced funding by 5 percent with the exception of funding for defense, homeland security, and veterans programs. It was rejected by a much closer vote of 48-51. A few hours later the bill was passed in the House by a vote of 228-194.
The bill did include $624 million in additional funding for the National Nuclear Security Administration for programs related to the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). This additional money was requested by the Obama Administration, and was one of very few programs to receive a funding increase.
Congress will return to Washington after next month’s elections. The FY 2011 appropriations’ cycle is likely to conclude with an omnibus spending bill that will combine all twelve appropriations measures into a single bill, although there has been speculation that another continuing resolution could be enacted that would continue the current level of funding until October 1, 2011.