This afternoon, the House of Representatives passed, 271-158, a bill extending the FY2011 Continuing Resolution (CR) until April 8, 2011. The bill now goes to the Senate where it is expected to pass on Wednesday or Thursday. The White House has indicated the President will sign the extension before the current CR runs out on Friday, March 18.
The House CR includes a total of $6 billion in funding reductions that are expected to find little opposition in the Senate. It would cut $3.5 billion by cutting or terminating 25 non-DoD programs that the president terminated or for which he did not request funding in the FY2012 budget. By far the largest of these reductions is a rescission of $1.7 billion in unspent funds the House says are no longer needed for the FY2010 Census. Other significant cuts to program funding the House says is no longer needed include: 1) pandemic flu costs (-$276 million), 2) Social Security Administration information technology activities (-$200 million), and 3) Community Service Employment for Older Americans activities (-$225 million).
The CR also cuts $2.6 billion by eliminating funding for more than 50 earmarked programs and projects (none from the Department of Defense) that were made available in previous appropriations. The largest of these cuts, $1 billion, is from the General Services Administration (GSA) Federal Buildings Fund program. Other large reductions include: $185 million from State and Local Law Enforcement Assistance, $172 million from Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) State and Tribal Assistance Grants; and $169 million from Community Oriented Policing Services technology projects.
Do the additional three weeks provided in this CR provide enough time for congressional Republicans and Democrats and the White House to reach a final agreement on a budget for the remainder of FY2011? So far, the six short-term CRs seem to have been successful in only one respect: They have kept the government from shutting down. Certainly they have provided time for both sides to keep working to resolve their differences. But, that time has not produced an agreement and there is a growing frustration on both sides of the aisle in Congress over the lack of progress.
If anything, the extra time seems to be widening the gap of disagreement between both sides, rather than narrowing it. Rank and file House Republicans are becoming more vocal in their calls for larger cuts to spending, making it more difficult for Republican leaders to accept any compromise. And, based on the results of Senate votes last week on both the House year-long proposal and a Senate Appropriations Committee alternative (neither bill got more than 44 votes), the chance of getting an agreement among Senate Democrats is becoming more difficult.
So, maybe the sixth time is the charm. But, very few are betting against a seventh CR.