Congress Running Out of Time to Act on FY15 Budget

By Shaun McDougall, Forecast International

WASHINGTON – The continuing resolution keeping the U.S. government’s doors open expires on December 11, and it remains to be seen if Congress will be able to pass new FY15 legislation to fund federal agencies, including the Pentagon, for the remainder of the fiscal year. Congress is expected to adjourn by the end of next week, and lawmakers are also waging battles over taxes and immigration reform. Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said the National Defense Authorization Act is a critical part of the agenda, suggesting that he may keep the Senate in session beyond next week to get the work done.

House and Senate Appropriations committee chairs have also been working on an omnibus spending bill that would feature all 12 federal spending bills, including one for the Pentagon. There has been some pressure from Republicans in the House, however, to tie immigration provisions to the spending bill, which could complicate matters. Failure to reach an accord on budget legislation could result in another government shutdown.

Another option to avoid a shutdown would be to extend the continuing resolution into calendar year 2015, at which point the next Congress could finalize FY15 spending measures. Last year, the government partially closed for over two weeks in October before a continuing resolution was put in place to fund the government at FY13 levels through mid-January 2014. At this time last year, lawmakers were working on finalizing both the FY14 budget legislation and a separate two-year budget deal to provide limited sequestration relief in FY14 and FY15. Today, it remains unclear if lawmakers can even reach an agreement on the regular FY15 budget, let alone work to address sequestration, which will impact spending limits in FY16 and beyond.

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