House and Senate leaders appear to have reached a deal on a continuing resolution (CR) to fund the federal government for six months beyond the start of the federal fiscal year on October 1st. The CR would extend current funding levels through March 2013. The effort, if approved by Congress, will avert any threats of a government shutdown just a month before the November elections.
Details of the CR will likely be released early next week but it is not yet clear when the House and Senate might vote on the measure. Both chambers are scheduled to recess on August 3rd and won’t return to Capitol Hill until the second week in September. And the House is already scheduled to take another break during the last week in September, leaving only 8 full working days in September (taking into account the Jewish holidays). The CR will need to be approved by September 30th.
The rest of the “fiscal cliff” – the expiration of Bush-era tax cuts, the doc fix, and automatic cuts that were part of the debt limit deal (sequester) – still loom with no deal in sight before the post-election lame-duck session. However, this potential agreement on continuing federal government spending would take at least one crisis off the table for the lame duck.
What does this mean for UW? Federal agencies will face uncertainty about their funding – even with the CR – so many may hold back on releasing grant announcements or otherwise act conservatively with their funding. And, depending on the outcome of the November elections, Republicans could gain more control in Congress or the White House and then advance their priorities to drastically cut discretionary spending to protect or shore up defense spending. So, while the 6-month CR takes one issue off the table for the lame duck session it does not create much certainty for federal agencies or the research universities that they fund.