Congress Prepares to Vote on CRDecember 7, 2016
Congress is set to be in session for another two weeks, however it is likely the House will adjourn and lawmakers will head home for the holidays by the end of this week. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has promised the House will conclude the 114th Congress with a piece of legislation that will fund the government into next spring.
House Republicans plan to unveil a stopgap continuing resolution (CR) that will set government spending through April. They are cutting it close, as usual, as Congress has until Friday to avoid a government shutdown. Initially, March 31, 2017 was the target end date for the next CR, but an April 28 date or later has become more likely due to a busy Senate calendar; the Senate will take more time to pass expected budgetary matters such as reconciliation and have a slate of Cabinet nominees to confirm.
With the Dec. 9 date looming, the timeline likely looks like this: passage in the House on Thursday, Dec. 8, then the Senate on Friday, Dec. 9 — that is, if senators, particularly Democrats, cooperate. The stopgap bill keeps the government on autopilot for more than half of fiscal 2017, though it will include a handful of policy and funding changes to provide some measure of flexibility to federal agencies.
CRs are appropriation acts that provide budget authority for federal agencies to continue operations when Congress and the President have not passed regular appropriations acts by the beginning of the fiscal year. Typically, CRs allocate funding for a short duration in proportionate amounts from the time period of the preceding year, with the additional limitation that the rate of expenditure cannot exceed the previous year’s rate. This means agencies are not only limited to the total funds from the prior year, but so too by the rate of spending from the prior year.