This afternoon, the House passed (277-151) a Continuing Resolution (CR) that funds federal government agencies through December 11, 2015. In the final vote, 91 Republicans joined all voting Democrats (186) in passing the CR.
Earlier today, the Senate passed the CR 78-20 as 32 Republicans joined all 44 Democrats and two Independents (who caucus as Democrats) in voting for passage. The president is expected to sign the bill before the fiscal year begin tomorrow.
The final, fairly bipartisan votes today ended a dramatic week of action on the CR. Last Thursday, the Senate blocked a vote on a CR that would have defunded Planned Parenthood. The 47-52 vote fell far short of the 60 yes votes needed to proceed to a vote. Eight Republican Senators joined 42 Democrats and two Independents in voting against the motion. Then on Monday, the Senate voted 77-19 to proceed to a vote on a CR that does not defund Planned Parenthood.
The CR essentially allows agencies to fund FY2016 programs at the FY2015 level ($1.017 trillion for the total government). The CR also includes funding for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) at an annual rate of $74.8 billion and provides $700 million in emergency funding to fight wildfires. The bill also extends authority for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for six months. During the CR period, no new starts are permitted nor are programs allowed to increase production rates above the FY2015 rate.
The stage is now set for House and Senate leaders to work with the White House to agree on a budget deal before the CR ruins out on December 11. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) want to begin talks with the White House on a two-year deal. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) have been pressing Republicans for months to start discussions on a deal.
However, the bipartisan nature of the final votes on the CR in the House and the Senate today mask the deep divisions that remain between Republicans and Democrats on FY2016 and future appropriations.
Speaker Boehner is scheduled to resign at the end of October and many House Republicans will press for their new leaders to take a hardline position on defense increase, while maintaining budget caps. This would mean cutting nondefense programs, which the Democrats and the White House strongly oppose. At the same time, Senate Democrats continue to threaten to block votes on FY2016 appropriations bills (none of which have moved through Congress) until budget deal discussions show progress. And, the fight to defund Planned Parenthood is not finished.
So, while one fight on FY2016 appropriations has ended, a much larger one, with possibly far greater implications looms.