Federal Relations

Eight Days to End of Fiscal Year

There are just eight days left in the current federal fiscal year yet there is no certainty as to how lawmakers will resolve their partisan differences before October 1st. The continuing resolution (CR) approved by the House last Friday will be the focus in the Senate where they will attempt to modify the bill before sending it back to the House for consideration. The House, meanwhile, will shift their immediate attention to a proposal to raise the debt ceiling until after the 2014 November elections.

Continuing Resolution: Senate Democrats will greatly modify the House passed CR to strip it of language defunding the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and keep government funded at current levels. They will send that back to the House where Republican leadership may or may not find enough votes to approve the modified version of the bill. This could lead to a series of back and forth votes between the House and Senate in an effort to avoid a government shutdown if there is no deal by next Monday.

But even a clean, level-funded CR may face opposition from some House Democrats who continue to argue that austerity spending plans are harming the economy and threatening job growth since a level-funded CR would trigger automatic, across-the-board cuts (sequestration). However, those cuts would not begin until January so Congress could still pass separate legislation late in the year to undo them.

Debt Ceiling: Meanwhile, House Republican leaders are drafting a debt limit bill that will likely be unveiled next week and would remove the ceiling on federal borrowing authority beyond the 2014 elections. And, just like their CR, it would delay implementation of the ACA, as well as cut mandatory spending, provide instructions for a tax overhaul, and promote deregulation and energy development.

Although the White House would not necessarily object to a debt limit suspension mechanism, the House plan would be laden with provisions the White House and congressional Democrats oppose. Obama has said he wants a clean debt limit increase before it expires in mid-October and he has ruled out negotiating over an increase in borrowing authority.