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With Spending Bills Stalled, Yearlong CR Looms

Posted by Regina on December 15, 2012 at 12:20 PM

Congress is unlikely to move any fiscal 2013 spending bills by the end of the year, a decision likely guaranteeing the federal government will operate under a continuing resolution for the entire year.

 

Appropriators say they have made significant progress in settling differences between House and Senate spending bills and had hoped several bills could be rolled into a year-end omnibus. But leaders, focused on a fiscal cliff accord and emergency aid for superstorm Sandy, have shown little interest in moving a catchall spending bill, they say.

 

“I think it is pretty tough to do an omnibus in the time available to them,” Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., said on Tuesday.

 

Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the ranking Republican on the Senate State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Committee, also said on Tuesday that he didn’t expect Congress to take up a year-end spending package.

 

“I don’t think it is going to happen,” Graham said. “I don’t think that the place is in the mood for doing big things like that right now.”

 

Instead, Congress is most likely to pass another six-month CR to cover the remainder of fiscal 2013, probably just before the current stopgap (PL 112-174) expires March 27.

 

Operating under CRs for an entire year has become a recent trend in election years. In two out of the past three election years, 2006 and 2010, the majority of annual spending bills were never completed, and scores of federal agencies were left operating at the prior year’s funding levels for the entire budget year.

 

Congress could even have a worse record in 2012, with not a single fiscal 2012 spending bill making it to the president’s desk. In previous election years, at least some of the appropriations measures moved as stand-alone bills and were signed into law.

 

A second six-month CR for fiscal 2013 would likely contain a large number of special provisions to address urgent needs of federal agencies, inviting some of the same political battles that would have come with an omnibus.

 

Some appropriators hold out hope they could re-introduce the fiscal 2013 bills early in the next Congress and try to move them as am omnibus. But a new Congress would likely have little interest in considering fiscal 2013 bills and would be more inclined to focus on the 2014 budget process.

 

Several appropriators lamented the demise of regular order in moving the spending bills, noting that bipartisan deals were in the works.

 

“You have got the parameters worked out,”Robert B. Aderholt, R-Ala., the chairman of the House Homeland Security Appropriations subcommittee, said of a House-Senate deal on a Homeland Security spending bill.

 

Tom Latham, R-Iowa, the chairman of the House Transportation-Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee, also said an agreement with his Senate counterpart on their bill is “pretty much completed.”

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