CR, then sayonara (Sep. 23)

Mike & Co. —

The operative question on the Hill right now is, when will we get out of here?  The simple answer is that Congress will adjourn as soon as logistically possible the minute after the budget stop-gap measure — aka  Continuing Resolution (aka CR) — has been adopted by both Houses.  Bet on late next week.

The CR currently on the table would extend spending authority at current levels as per the FY16 budget until December 9, or 20 percent of the way into FY17.   What difference does this make?   Not much in electoral terms, but more that you might think.

Good weekends all,

Dana

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Congress has once again stalled in its attempts to pass a Continuing Resolution to fund the government past September. Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell filed a CR, which Democrats  rejected as a partisan bill. The Senate then recessed until Monday afternoon, leaving less than a week to stave off another government shutdown.

Bipartisan negotiations have broken down and both sides are accusing the other of holding the country hostage to force their political agenda.  Senate Democrats have described the CR as an all Republican bill, rejecting funding for the Flint water crisis, preventing the SEC from forcing corporations to reveal their political spending and other political riders. The Whitehouse has said the CR is a Republican attempt to force a Government shutdown. Republicans, say that the CR is free of “partisan poison-pills” and has many concessions to Democratic demands.

Poison Pills

While Republicans insist the CR is free of any partisan riders, the bill itself tells a different story.  It

  • sends funding “everywhere but Flint,” including funds for states represented by high ranking Senate Republicans. Republicans argue that a bill pasted earlier in the Senate addresses Flint
  • has a rider overturning the SEC ruling that forces corporations to reveal their political spending, which Sen. McConnell has been vocally advocating.
  • does not eliminate the quorum rule for the Export-Import Bank, which is opposed by Republican leadership. Because of Republican refusals to consider new nominees, is unable to make agreements of over $10 million. This renders the institution non-operational, in spite of criticism from both Democrats and some Republicans, including former Presidential candidate Lindsey Graham.
  • imposes a 0.59 percent across the board cut in discretionary spending to offset the Zika Virus funding, which Democrats argued was unnecessary.

Short-sighted Funding 

The use of CRs to fund the government has harmed government programs and government labor relations.

  •  Short term CRs are not comprehensive, so many projects end up getting left out. These programs are then faced with budget cuts or budget freezes.
  •  Public safety programs have seen large cuts. Over the past four years the Community Oriented Policing Services Hiring grant has been cut by 44 percent. Abstance abuse treatment programs and National background check services has also seen cuts of over 60 percent.
  •  Senate Republicans like John McCain have argued that CRs are threatening the US’s ability to maintain technological superiority and hamper their ability to combat terrorism, especially cyber terrorism.
  •  Due to the uncertainty of funding, government contractors have changed their billing model to more expensive fixed-price models because they no longer have faith in the government to continue their programs, and can no longer rely on the lower cost labor hour models.
  •  The instability has also caused many contractors to begin abandoning US government contracts to take contracts with foreign governments.
  •  Wage freezes brought about by the use of CRs have also led to reduced staffs in many government agencies, undermining their efficiency and their ability to provide necessary services.
  •  CRs also hurts the government’s ability to respond to disasters like the Zika virus outbreak and flooding in the southern US. This is due to understaffed agencies, and budget caps that require drawn out budget debates on even these pressing issues.

Since 1977, there’s only been 4 years that CRs have not been used. The last time that Congress did not use a CR was 1997. Per a 2016 Congression Research Service study:

Between FY1977 and FY2016 (excluding the four fiscal years in which all appropriations were enacted on time), over half of the regular appropriations bills for a fiscal year were enacted on time in only one instance (FY1978).  Since FY1997, the most recent fiscal year that all regular appropriations bills were completed on time, CRs have been enacted on average  six times per fiscal year. During this period, CRs provided funding for an average of almost five months each fiscal year.

No existing programs are frozen, but they do not receive increased funding. All new programs are put on pause if the appropriation bill covering their competency has not been passed, even if this means waiting until the next Fiscal Year.

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