Congress Kicks the Can, Passes Continuing Resolution

Today the U.S. Senate is expected to pass a continuing resolution to fund the federal government for six months. The House of Representatives passed a similar bill last week.

The legislation effectively allows Congress to forego its appropriations responsibilities by funding the government at 0.61 percent above current funding levels across the board, with slightly higher increases in some areas.

While the across-the-board increase in spending is unusual for a continuing resolution, it is consistent with the spending ceiling set last year during the debt ceiling showdown that led to the Budget Control Act. The bill will come as a disappointment for advocates of the recently passed transportation bill, MAP-21, as it funds the Department of Transportation at lower levels. 

Traditionally, once Congress receives a budget proposal from the president, the House and Senate would pass a budget resolution in the spring. The budget resolution effectively acts as a framework for to fund the federal government through 12 separate appropriations bills that Congress normally passes throughout the summer.

This year, however, the House-passed budget resolution authored by Republican vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan was dead on arrival in the democratically controlled Senate.  Without a budget resolution and no agreement on appropriations bills, Congress opted for a continuing resolution to prevent the government from shutting down.

The president is expected to sign the continuing resolution into law. As for 2001 and 2003 tax cut increases, budget sequestration and the fiscal cliff, we will have to wait until after the election.