The House Appropriations Committee neared completion of its consideration of all the regular appropriations bills with the only remaining unreported bill being Labor/HHS appropriations. The Labor HHS Subcommittee completed its consideration of the Labor/HHS bill with the full Committee yet to schedule a mark-up.
With the completion of House consideration of the DoD bill earlier this month, the House may have considered its last regular FY2013 bill for the year. The five bills that will probably not see House consideration are: Agriculture; Financial Services; Interior and Environment; Labor/HHS; State/Foreign Operations; and, Transportation/HUD.
The Senate Appropriations Committee has yet to report DoD, Interior and Environment and Legislative Branch bills. The Senate remains steadfast in not considering any of the individual bills with Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) stating last week that the chamber would not consider any individual appropriation bills.
All this sets the stage for a continuing resolution. Attention is now turning to what a continuing resolution would look like and when it might be considered.
The House Republican Leadership has started paving the way for a three month continuing resolution with funding levels close to those agreed to in the Budget Control Act (“BCA”) enacted last August. Current plans are to consider the stop-gap measure in September.
That might be a bitter pill to swallow for some conservative Republicans who argue against giving back hard-fought victories on the level of spending. However, other key conservative Republicans - most notably Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) - are calling for an early adoption of a continuing resolution that would last into calendar year 2013 at roughly the same spending levels as the current fiscal year. If this a retreat from earlier positions ratcheting down the spending caps in the Budget Control Act of 2011, it is merely a tactical one. Republicans certainly are betting that they will have an easier time of things if the they are able to win the White House in November.
From a political perspective, taking away a possibly contentious fight over a government shutdown would allow the Republicans to keep the focus on the economy during the election season. It also reflects the belief of the Republican leadership that they "lost" the shutdown debate last year and would likely lose it again this year.
Importantly, a non-controversial, three month continuing resolution would need to be extended in any lame duck session, a session with an already full list of issues to face - expiring tax cuts, tax extenders and trying to figure out how to handle the looming sequestration deadline. So an expiring continuing resolution would present another opportunity to leverage any extension into an "engine" for other legislative action.
How Democrats might react is unclear. Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) may need some Democratic votes to offset possible conservative Republican opposition if the spending levels jump back near those contained in the BCA of last summer. Will the Democrats be willing to provide those votes? That remains unclear but what is certain, if Democratic votes are needed to pass a continuing resolution, the Democrats will have leverage on the duration of the measure. And right now, Democrats - as well as key Republicans like Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers (R-KY) - are lining up in opposition to a continuing resolution that extends into 2013.