CR Set to Move Ahead of Shutdown Deadline

For all you can say about the budget process in recent years, at least this time Congress is on track to resolve spending levels ahead of a deadline -- not the April 15 budget resolution deadline, but the absolute minimum September 30 deadline. The House is set to vote on a continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government at $1.047 trillion through March 27 of next year, and the Senate will likely move forward with the measure next week. The figure is the FY 2013 level of spending specified in the Budget Control Act, and is about a $8 billion increase from FY 2012. In terms of allocation, lawmakers have decided not to change the funding level in each appropriations section, instead scaling up each bill by 0.6 percent. The CR does not change the sequester that will take effect on January 2.

The bill also includes $100 billion for war funding ($88.5 billion going to the Pentagon) and $6.4 billion of disaster relief funding.  The federal pay freeze that has been in effect since the start of 2011 would continue through the end of the CR; by contrast, President Obama in his budget had recommended a 0.5 percent pay increase for 2013.

Believe it or not, with almost three weeks left until the new fiscal year begins, the bill seems to be on a smooth path to passage. There is some grumbling over the pay freeze extension and the reauthorization of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) may factor in, but neither seems likely to derail the bill.

Obviously, this whole process is no reason for celebration. Simply maintaining the allocation between the 12 bills that make up the CR is a poor way to budget. No appropriations bills have been passed, and prospects are dim for them being passed at some point during the year, especially given the discussions over the fiscal cliff that will have to occur. As CRFB president Maya MacGuineas said yesterday:

It's certainly encouraging that Congress isn't waiting until the absolute last minute; and that they at least are not breaching the spending caps agreed to last year...But let's not pat ourselves on the back too much for simply having a plan to keep the lights on.