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Continuing Resolution to Attach to “Minibus” Appropriations, Pass This Week

OK, mystery solved. Over the weekend I was stumped with how Congress would handle the expiring continuing resolution that funds the government. Friday was the deadline, and there was seemingly no activity to suggest that anything would be done to extend the CR. But finally, we have learned the plan: the CR will attach to the “minibus” of three appropriations measures:

According to House Republicans, the continuing resolution will be attached to H.R. 2112, which is now the so-called “minibus” spending bill covering the Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Science, Transportation and Housing and Urban Development departments. The House bill started as an Agriculture spending bill, but the Senate added the other elements and approved it in a Nov. 1 vote […]

The House and Senate are already in a conference over H.R. 2112, part of what used to be a normal process for reconciling bills that pass both the House and Senate but are not identical.

That there’s actually a conference committee on a piece of legislation is jarring enough in this age of gridlock. That the bill in question actually emerged from conference is nothing short of miraculous.

According to Majority Leader Eric Cantor, this CR, with funding set at the agreed-upon levels from the debt limit deal, will last four weeks, until December 16. So where the threat of failure on this CR was basically Thanksgiving, the threat of the next one will be Christmas and New Year’s.

The House has a full schedule before getting to the minibus/CR, including a vote on a balanced budget amendment (which was mandated by the debt limit deal and is not expected to pass the Senate), finishing off the veterans hiring/3% withholding cancellation bill, a bill on maritime transportation, and a national right-to-carry bill that would pre-empt many state gun control laws.

The presumed passage of the CR with the three appropriations measures (out of a total of 12) means that Congress, by the end of the week, could be 1/4 of the way to fulfilling their job responsibility, only a month and a half after the deadline for the new fiscal year.

It’s worth noting that governing by continuing resolution has negative effects on the economy, as this story for the National Priorities Project points out:

Last year Congress passed CR after CR – eight in all, before the final FY2011 budget was enacted in April – six months into the fiscal year. And that final budget was itself the eighth CR – funding the entire government at FY2010 levels, except the Defense Department, the only federal agency to get an appropriations bill passed.

Now, in FY2012, every agency except the Pentagon continues to be funded at FY2010 levels. But while the dollar values are the same as they were in FY2012 – the so-called “nominal” funding levels – actual purchasing power of those dollars is lower due to the effects of inflation. So even as federal agencies await the spending cuts mandated by the August agreement between the White House and Congress, inflation is eating at their budgets.

Fortunately, inflation is very low right now. But any increase in inflation rates, possibly triggered by a long-awaited upturn in the economy, could change all that.

In addition, being in a permanent condition of facing a government shutdown every few week means that federal agencies cannot do any long-term planning or commit resources to wider priorities. It means that time and effort and money must be spent determining fallback strategies if the spending runs out. It’s just a terrible way to run a bureaucracy in the world’s largest economy.

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David Dayen

David Dayen

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