Agreement to Continue Federal Funding through March 2013 (Seems) Assured

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Publication date: 
6 August 2012

Before  leaving for the summer recess, House and Senate leaders issued statements  indicating their intention to craft legislation to continue the current level  of federal funding for the first six months of FY 2013.  The new fiscal year starts on October 1.

In  two statements totaling only 132 words, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid  (D-NV) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) announced that they had agreed to postpone  – until March – what is likely to be a major disagreement about the level of  federal spending in the new fiscal year.

Majority  Leader Reid stated:

“This  agreement reached between the Senate, the House and the White House provides  stability for the coming months, when we will have to resolve critical issues  that directly affect middle class families. The funding levels in the six-month  CR will correspond to the top-line funding level of $1.047 trillion. I hope  that we can face the challenges ahead in the same spirit of compromise.”

Speaker  Boehner’s announcement was similar in tone and wording:

“Leader Reid and I have reached an agreement by which the House and Senate will approve a six-month continuing resolution in September to keep the government operating into next year. During the August district work period, committee members and their staff will write legislation that can be passed by the House and Senate in September and sent to President Obama to be signed into law.”

The  appropriations committees have written most of the FY 2013 bills.  The House Appropriations Committee had passed  all but one – for Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education – of the  twelve funding bills.  Six of these bills  had passed the House.  The Senate  Appropriations Committee had also approved all but one – for Interior and  Environment – of the funding bills.  None  had reached the Senate floor.

Despite  this progress, there was certain to conflict in securing final passage of the  twelve bills by both chambers by October 1.   The House leadership wanted total funding to be below the figure agreed  to in the budget legislation enacted a year ago.  The Senate leadership and the White House  disagreed.  Argument about this number – a  difference of approximately $15 billion - could have consumed much time and  attention when other issues have to be settled, with the threat of a  government-wide shut down as a possibility.

Commenting  on this development, the White House Press Secretary released the following  statement:

“The  agreement reached by House and Senate leadership to fund the government through  the first quarter of 2013 is a welcome development, and we are encouraged that  both sides have agreed to resolve this issue without delay.  The President has made clear that it is  essential that the legislation to fund the government adheres to the funding  levels agreed to by both parties last year, and not include ideological or  extraneous policy riders. The President will work with leaders in both parties  to sign a bill that accomplishes these goals.”

Congress is scheduled  to return to Washington the week of September 10, and as Speaker Boehner  stated, committee members and staff will use this time to develop a funding  bill called a continuing resolution.  All  signs indicate that this can be accomplished.   But until the final bill is passed by the House and the Senate, and  signed by the President, uncertainty will remain. 

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