As fiscal year (FY) 2011 draws to a close, House and Senate leaders have spent more than a week grappling with a continuing resolution (CR) that is needed to keep the government running when FY 2012 begins on October 1.
Last week, the House passed a CR that would last through November 18 and extend funding at a rate of $1.043 trillion, per the budget agreement reached in the debt reduction package this summer. The measure also includes $3.65 billion in new money for areas hit by Hurricane Irene and other recent disasters, partially offset by $1.6 billion in energy loan guarantee cuts.
The stop-gap measure would give Congress additional time to complete action on legislation that would provide funding for FY 2012 in its entirety – either via regular stand-alone appropriations bills or a comprehensive omnibus measure that would encompass all or most appropriations bills.
The House-passed CR ran into resistance in the Senate, where Democratic leaders objected to the offsets for disaster relief spending. As a result, the upper chamber cleared two different measures the evening of September 26 – a longer-term CR (H.R. 2608) that would last through November 18 and a very short-term CR (H.R. 2017) that would last through October 4.
H.R. 2608 includes $2.65 billion in disaster relief funding for FY 2012, similar to the House-passed CR. However, the additional $1 billion in supplemental disaster funding for FY 2011 in the House bill – the source of the controversial offsets – was left out of the Senate CR. This decision was reached after the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said that its Disaster Relief Fund had enough money for the remainder of FY 2011, negating the need for the additional $1 billion.
The House then agreed to H.R. 2017 by unanimous consent on September 29, giving Congress a few extra days to complete work on the longer CR that would last through mid-November.