Yesterday, Congress approved a Continuing Resolution (CR) that will keep the government running until December 9, 2016. The House passed the CR (H.R. 5325) by a bipartisan vote of 342-85 as 170 Republicans and 172 Democrats voted for passage. Earlier in the day, the Senate passed the CR 72-26. The president is expected to sign the bill before the fiscal year begins on Saturday.
Final negotiations on the CR were stalled because Senate Democrats would not let the bill proceed without funding for the water contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan. They argued that just as the proposed CR includes assistance for flood damage in Louisiana and other states, the bill should also include assistance for Flint.
With the Senate deadlock continuing, and the possibility of a government shutdown rising as the Friday midnight deadline approached, House Democrat and Republican leaders agreed to a deal that would provide assistance to Flint. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) agreed to include funding for Flint assistance in the Water Resources Development Act. Flint assistance is already in the Senate version of the water resources bill. Senate leaders accepted the deal and the Senate and House passed the CR.
Commenting on the bill, House Appropriations Committee Chair Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY) said “a continuing resolution is a last resort. But, it is what we must do to fulfill our congressional responsibility to keep the lights on in our government.” Senate Appropriations Committee chair Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) called the CR “a short-term fix that will allow the Senate and the House to complete work on the FY2017 appropriations bills later this year.”
The CR is included in the FY2017 Military Construction/Veterans Affairs appropriations bill, which funds DoD military construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations for the full year.
The CR essentially allows agencies to fund FY2017 programs at the FY2016 level ($1.067 trillion for the total government and $74.1 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO)) until December 9. During the CR period, no new starts are permitted nor are programs allowed to increase production rates above the FY2016 rate
The bill also includes $1.1 billion in emergency funding for preventing the spread of the Zika virus, funding to address the opioid crisis, and $500 million in rebuilding and recovery grants to families and communities affected by recent flooding.
Congress will be in recess until after the November elections, returning for a “lame duck” session beginning on November 14. They will work to pass 11 individual FY2017 appropriations bills, a series of “mini-buses that include some individual appropriations, or more likely an omnibus appropriations bill containing the 11 remaining appropriations bills.