Government Remains Funded, Lawmakers Return Home

September 24, 2014

pic-capitolLate last week, President Barack Obama signed into law a fiscal year (FY) 2015 Continuing Resolution (CR)—H.J.Res 124—that will fund the government through Dec.  11. The House passed the CR by of vote of 319 to 108 last Wednesday and the Senate approved it by a vote of 78 to 22 on Thursday. The House and Senate will now be in recess until after the midterm elections in November.

To date, the House has only passed seven FY2015 Appropriations bills while the Senate has passed none. Congress will have less than one month to reach an agreement on the details of all 12 Appropriations bills, put them together in an Omnibus bill, and forward it to the president by the Dec. 11 deadline. If Congress does not meet this deadline it will have to pass another CR to avert a government shutdown.

H.J.Res. 124 continues funding for government programs and services at the current annual rate of $1.012 trillion, and this rate will remain in place for the length of the continuing resolution, or until Congress approves the annual Appropriations legislation for FY2015.

Final action on the CR came after an agreement was reached on a proposal to authorize the training and arming of Syrian rebels fighting Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) forces. 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.

Also included in the CR was a provision to extend the charter for the Export-Import Bank of the U.S. (Ex-Im) through June 30, 2015. As the official export credit agency of the U.S., Ex-Im provides loans, loan guarantees and insurance policies that increase export opportunities for U.S. businesses. Ex-Im was last reauthorized in May 2012, and the Bank’s current charter was set to expire on Sept. 30. By extending the Ex-Im charter through June, when there is no must-pass legislation on the docket–such as the CR–some are worried that may make it easier for opponents to dismantle the Bank.

Another inclusion in the bill was a provision extending the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA) through the period of the CR ending on Dec. 11. Without action, the ITFA would have expired on Nov. 1, but now the moratorium on state and local Internet access taxes continues while also providing protections for Internet access taxes that were levied in certain states before October 1998 and grandfathered into the moratorium. The Internet tax moratorium has been in effect since 1998 and was last extended in 2007.

After passing the CR, House leaders opted to cut their already abbreviated fall session short, and, instead of remaining in Washington through the first week of October, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) sent lawmakers back home and onto the campaign trail. Similarly, the Senate wrapped up early and they too, likely will not return until after the November congressional elections.