CHN: Congress Poised to Pass Stopgap Spending Measure through Spring 2017
With the Republicans set to control both chambers of Congress and the White House come January, Republican leaders in Congress are poised to pass another stopgap spending bill to keep the government funded when the current stopgap measure runs out on December 9. The new short-term spending bill, known as a Continuing Resolution or CR, will fund annually-appropriated programs likely through April 28, 2017. The Senate’s predicted packed schedule in the spring led some to push for the CR to extend through April. Passing another CR will allow the Republicans to avoid having to negotiate with Democrats in Congress and President Obama in the lame duck session and allow President-elect Trump to have input in FY17 spending plans.
While the CR will mostly keep FY16 funding levels in place, it will contain so-called ‘anomalies,’ or adjustments to funding levels. The Obama Administration, for example, has requested additional funding for defense and war spending, refugee resettlement, and preparations for the 2017 summer meal program benefitting low-income students. It has also asked Congress to delay an across-the-board cut of $1.6 billion to domestic/international discretionary programs that would kick in automatically during the term of the new CR because spending has exceeded budget caps. Instead, the Administration proposes waiting until full-year funding is determined. In addition, advocates have been urging members of Congress to include funding for Flint, Michigan and other communities hurt by lead-contaminated water. Reports state that money for Flint will be authorized in the Water Resources Development Act that Congress is scheduled to pass this week and will be funded through the CR. Unfortunately, however, while the Flint aid package that previously passed in the Senate totaled $220 million, the House CR is only expected to appropriate $170 million, which is the funding previously they previously approved. Since the Senate will only have one day to agree to the CR, the prospects for negotiating the funding back up seem unpromising. CQ reports that estimates for the cost of replacing Flint’s water pipelines range from $300 million to $700 million or more. Funding for hurricane and flood victims may also be included.
Advocates are concerned that the Obama Administration did not request additional funding for HUD-related housing assistance vouchers and other programs. As rents increase, a lack of additional money will hurt HUD’s ability to continue funding existing vouchers, like those through the Section 8 programs. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that a failure to increase the funding will deny vouchers to 100,000 families, a loss worse than the sequestration cuts in 2013. Democrats, the Obama Administration and advocates continue to insist that any increase in defense spending in the CR be matched by an equal increase in nondefense spending, a principle known as parity that was included in the bipartisan budget deal passed last year. They also insist that the CR not contain contentious policy changes known as ‘riders.’ CHN will continue to closely track and report on the spending package.
Many advocates and some elected and government officials (including some Republicans) have urged Congress to instead pass a combined spending package that would cover the rest of the fiscal year, allow Congress to make changes in funding levels for programs, and give federal agencies more ability to plan ahead and start new projects. Twelve spending bills are required to keep the government operating; to date, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees have each passed its own version of all 12 bills, but only five have been passed by the full House and only four by the full Senate. Only one, the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bill, has been signed into law, as it was included with the current CR passed in late September.