Federal Relations

September 19, 2011

CR Action This Week

Congress is expected to approve a continuing resolution (CR) this week to keep government operating past the September 30th end of the federal fiscal year.  The House will take action on the bill early this week, which would provide funding for government programs through November 18th. The bill would set the discretionary funding at 1.5 percent below current levels as called for in the August debt agreement (PL 122-25).  The extra seven weeks could allow Congress time to pass some stand-alone FY12 spending measures but it is more likely that appropriators will use the extra time to assemble an omnibus spending agreement that would contain most, if not all, FY12 spending bills, and could move to the floors before Thanksgiving.

The bill contains $3.65 billion in disaster relief funding, including $1 billion in immediate aid for FY11, which would be offset by cutting $1.5 billion from the Energy Department’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program.  Democrats in both chambers have expressed concerns about the offset and argued that disaster relief in the past has not been paid for with cuts from other programs.  Instead, Senate Democrats want the House to consider their measure (H J Res 66), which would provide $6.9 billion for disaster aid without offsets.  It was passed by the Senate, 62-37, last week.  Senate Democrats may move to strip the offset from the House bill when it reaches the Senate, but in the meantime are touting their “bipartisan” plan, which funds the administration’s disaster relief request for this year and next.   Both chambers will need to work out a deal by the end of the week if they want to proceed with their planned weeklong recess period next week.

In other appropriations news, the Senate Appropriations Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee is scheduled to consider its annual spending bill on Tuesday, which is expected to be slightly below FY11 spending levels.  NIH may be safe from cuts in the Senate as committee members have expressed that NIH funding is important for economic growth.

Also on Tuesday, the Senate Transportation-HUD Subcommittee is prepared to take action on their FY12 bill, which is anticipated to be in line with the House proposal for just over $55 billion.  The House bill, approved by subcommittee on September 8th, would provide $55.15 billion in discretionary spending for the Transportation Department, Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and related agencies.  The priorities set in the measures, however, are likely to vary.  The House bill does not include funding for high-speed rail or intercity passenger rail service and would cut funding for HUD by $3 billion — about 7 percent below current levels.

To date, Senate appropriators have approved eight of the 12 annual spending bills, but only one, the Military Construction-VA bill (HR 2055), has passed in the full Senate.  House appropriators have completed work on nine of their 12 bills and six have passed in the full House.  Congress has yet to clear any FY12 spending bills for the President’s signature.