When Congress returns next week only three weeks will remain until the beginning of the new fiscal year and eight weeks until the election. That means passing the long-term FY2013 Continuing Resolution will probably be the only major legislative action completed before Congress leaves for the final weeks of campaigning.
In August, House and Senate leaders agreed to a six-month FY2013 Continuing Resolution (CR). This was meant to avoid the uncertainty of a possible government shutdown on October 1 and remove it as a campaign issue. Under the agreement, House and Senate appropriations committees were to prepare a CR during the August recess period and both chambers would act on the CR in September.
The CR would be funded at an annual level of $1.047 trillion, the amount set last year in the deal to increase the national debt level (Budget Control Act of 2011). This would resolve, at least temporarily, the dispute between the House and Senate on the FY2013 spending level. The House Budget Resolution set the FY2013 level at $1.028 trillion. The Democrat-controlled Senate did not pass a Budget Resolution, but the Democrat leadership strongly supports the $1.047 trillion level. While there is still underlying concern among House Republicans who want more spending reductions, congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle believe that the CR will pass.
No doubt there will be pressure to include more funding and legislative language in the CR for specific programs. However, it is unlikely that the FY2013 CR will contain much additional funding or many so-called policy riders. Exceptions could be for Homeland Security, Defense, and possible major weather-related disasters.
If the six-month FY2013 CR passes, the new 113th Congress will have to complete action on the FY2013 appropriations bills next year, along with any legislative business left over from the lame duck session of the 112th Congress. This could take an extended period of time and cause a delay in submission of the FY2014 budget.
To date the House has passed seven FY 2013 appropriations bills (including DoD and Military Construction/VA), while the full Senate has not considered any appropriations bills.
The House-passed FY2013 DoD Appropriations bill (excluding military construction) would provide $518 billion, almost $8 billion above the president’s request. The DoD Appropriations bill approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee would provide $511 billion, consistent with the administration’s request and the target set in the Budget Control Act. Military Construction funding provided in both the House-passed and Senate Appropriations Committee approved FY2013 Military Construction/VA bills is $10.6 billion, more than $500 million below the request.