Over the weekend, the U.S. Senate passed HJ Res 117, the six-month continuing resolution (CR) that the House passed the week before . The bill now heads to President Obama who is expected to sign it. Passage of the CR removes the threat of a government shutdown by funding government operations through March 27, 2013.
The bill provides funding at a level consistent with the Fiscal Year 2013 spending cap included in the Budget Control Act (BCA). This represents an $8 billion increase in funding over the previous fiscal year. Some of the $8 billion will be set aside for emergency spending, but the majority of it will be distributed among all accounts via a 0.62% across-the-board increase in funding for programs. Though the CR ensures that the federal government will continue to be funded in the near-term, it does not address the sequestration cuts which are still scheduled to go into effect in January.
Congressional passage of the CR is considered a victory for the Senate, who had identified the BCA cap as its target all along. The House earlier this year passed a budget that cut funding by about $19 billion below the BCA cap. However, given Senate resistance to the House-passed budget and House leaders’ uneasiness over the political fallout of another protracted budget battle, the House relented and decided to accept the BCA caps as the target for the next six months. Whichever party controls Congress and the White House after the November elections will have an opportunity to reopen this debate next March when dealing with the remaining six months of the fiscal year.