NAICU Washington Update

Congress Has Left the Building

September 25, 2012

Back in town for two weeks after its summer break, Congress adjourned September 22.  This marks the earliest pre-election adjournment since 1960.  The most important accomplishment of the short session was passage of a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the federal government funded to March 27, 2013, averting  a shutdown-showdown this fall.

The CR (H. J. Res. 117) funds total appropriations at $1.047 trillion - the amount set for FY 2013 in the Budget Control Act of 2011, and doesn't eliminate or cut any programs.  This is $8 billion more than total spending in FY 2012. Because of higher than expected revenue from a housing program in FY 2012, these additional funds will allow an across-the-board increase of 0.612 percent to spread across all agencies.

The Department of Education is expected to have a $416.8 million increase to work with over the six-month CR.  Agencies now have 30 days to submit an operating plan outlining spending levels for each program.  Once the Department releases that plan, it establish student aid funding levels for the 2013-14 award year.

Both the House and Senate appropriations committees did a lot of work this session, but didn't quite meet their goal of finishing all their bills individually.  This forced Congress to punt with the CR setting across-the-board funding. The House wrote all 12 of its bills, reported 11 out of committee, and passed six on the floor. The Senate wrote and reported out 11 of its 12 bills, but brought none to the floor.

Throughout, the House worked with a lower spending cap than the Senate, in an attempt to force more cuts than the Budget Control Act required. This would have led to impossible gridlock in the conference committees, and would have put additional pressure on leaders to negotiate yet another budget deal. In the end, the bipartisan desire to avoid a politically-dangerous government shutdown prevailed, outweighing the lesser discomfort of having some conservatives rail against the CR providing an “increase” for FY 2013

Following the election, the House is scheduled to be in session November 13 to December 14, with a break for Thanksgiving.  The Senate is expected to convene for a similar “lame duck" session.

MORE News from NAICU