Government affairs

Legislative Updates

Lawmakers working to craft short-term spending bill

House and Senate leaders are hammering out details on a short-term continuing resolution (CR) that would extend current funding levels to prevent a government shutdown from happening after Sept. 30. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has scheduled a procedural vote for Monday; however, the text of the CR has not been released yet.

Congress has been unsuccessful in completing its work on all 12 appropriations measures,  and the immediate short-term extension ensures that we can expect more debate over the budget during the lame-duck session (i.e., the period after the general election but before the next Congress is sworn in).

In its draft form, the CR would extend government funding through Dec. 9. It includes supplemental funding to respond to the Zika virus outbreak and a Fiscal Year 2017 appropriations measure for military construction and veterans program. House and Senate leaders are attempting to prevent the controversial policy riders—or “poison pills”—that lawmakers attached to Zika funding in the spring. These riders included provisions regarding Confederate flags in federal cemeteries and federal funds for Planned Parenthood.

Members of the House Freedom Caucus have been advocating extending the CR for six months to move the budget discussions into next year with a new president and Congress in place. Shifting the extension to March, however, would also place the budget debates on top of a looming need to raise the country’s debt limit or risk defaulting on financial obligations. During similar times, many lawmakers have used federal employees as scapegoats, threaten to slash their pay and benefits. In fact, previous discussions about raising the debt ceiling have included reductions of postal employees’ health benefits and pensions. We will need to work very hard to prevent additional cuts.

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