Houses Passes CR, But Unresolved Issues Remain

In what was basically a formality, this morning the House of Representatives approved a super short-term continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government funded through October 4. This should clear the way for approval of a slightly less short-term CR that would fund the government through November 18.

The latter CR would put discretionary spending at the Budget Control Act level of $1.043 trillion. Also, the issue that held up passage of a CR--emergency spending--was resolved after FEMA determined that it would not need any additional emergency money to get through FY 2011 (which ends tomorrow). As a result, the original $3.65 billion in FEMA money that Congress seemed to be willing to pass was reduced to $2.65 billion. Apparently, the issue of offsetting the emergency money was defused because of the lower amount given.

However, many unresolved issues remain. Of course, Congress will have to pass another CR (or omnibus appropriations bills) by November 18, but there will be more to this fight than emergency spending. The allocation of money within the overall $1.043 trillion was not really dealt with, since the CR simply cut spending across the board to get from the FY 2011 to the FY 2012 cap. If Congress is looking to either pass appropriations bills or a full-year CR, it will have to resolve House and Senate differences over the allocation among the spending categories.

Plus, funding for disaster relief may come up again in November. As talked about in a POLITICO article, although Congress passed $2.65 billion in FEMA money, that is only a small amount compared to the amount of disaster relief spending that will be made over the course of the year. According to the article, some estimates have $1.5 billion already being spent by November 18, and FEMA has expected the money to be exhausted by late December. So, it is quite possible that Congress will be fighting over disaster relief again in a month and a half.

Our broken budget process and fragmented political system has made every deadline a scramble. We thought FY 2011 was bad enough, with the budget not being determined until the year was already half-over on the eighth CR. As scary as the thought is, FY 2012 might be even messier.