Action Moves Forward on Continuing Resolution

September 16, 2014

pic-capitolThe House is expected to consider H.J.Res. 124, a 10-week continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government running after funding expires on Sept. 30 and will spend six hours debating an amendment offered by House Armed Services Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.) that would authorize the Obama administration to aid Syrian rebels to fight against Islamic State militants. After the House adopts the amendment, it will likely pass the CR either today or tomorrow.

The stopgap spending bill will fund the government through Dec. 11, 2014, extending appropriations at the current rate into Fiscal Year (FY) 2015, which begins on Oct. 1, 2014. It includes an across-the-board cut of 0.0554 percent in order to maintain the $1.012 trillion FY2014 discretionary level agreed to in the Bipartisan Budget Agreement.  It also maintains an $85 billion placeholder for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) until Dec. 11, 2014.

In addition to keeping government operations funded beyond Sept. 30, the bill contains a number of policy adjustments. Most notably, it extends authorization for the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im) through June 30, 2015. It also increases funding for the VA claims backlog, shifting funds away from Military Construction in line with the President’s FY2015 request.

The continuing resolution provides flexibility for Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to more quickly accommodate unaccompanied children at the southwest border. It also provides $30 million for the Centers for Disease Control and $58 million for HHS’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority to respond to the Ebola outbreak.

Lastly, the CR extends the Internet Tax Freedom Act’s moratorium on state and local taxation of internet access and the authority for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) through Dec. 11, 2014.

The CR was not passed last week because lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were reluctant to take a politically perilous vote on a CR that included a provision that would formally allow the U.S. to expand its strategy against Islamic State militants. Such an authorization would grant the Obama administration more freedom to respond to the threat, such as allowing for the use of ground troops. The White House has yet to ask Congress for a formal authorization of military force against ISIS.

Instead, the amendment would authorize—not appropriate funds—the U.S. to train and equip Syrian rebels to fight against the Islamic State, but does not commit U.S. combat forces and would pay for it by reprogramming existing funds. It would also require the Pentagon to submit regular reports to Congress about the status of recruitment efforts and for the White House to alert Congress 15 days before any mission begins. Lawmakers want to move the authority to the defense authorization bill when they act on it in December.

Once passed in the House, the Senate is expected to consider the measure quickly. Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) has said she hopes the Senate can pass the CR by the end of the week, as both chambers head into another recess next week.