Congress returned from its August recess this week to address a variety of pressing topics. For example, a federal fiscal 2014 spending plan is needed before the end of business on Sept. 30, otherwise the government will shut down. While this debate was expected to be quite contentious, the national debate over potential U.S. military action in Syria has moved most other issues off the table. For issues that have deadlines, such as the FY14 spending plan, it appears as though Congress is taking a path that likely offers the highest chance of success.
The U.S. House is reportedly set to release a FY14 continuing resolution that will fund the government at the FY13 level – $988 billion – until Dec. 13. This CR is seen as a compromise between House Republicans who want to fund the government at $967 billion and Senate Democrats who want to fund the government at $1,053 billion. However, not every group is behind the compromise CR. A small group of Republican lawmakers see the FY14 spending bill as the last best chance to undo the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, and they are staunchly set against any spending bill or CR that includes funding for the healthcare law. President Obama has said that he will not sign any legislation that would defund his signature healthcare program. The possibility that Congress would pass a CR that defunds the PPACA is quite small; however, such a bill would potentially result in a government shutdown.
Should the CR pass Congress, which it is expected to, the next fiscal fight will only be a few weeks later as the U.S. hits its debt ceiling. Obama appears to be holding firm to his position of not negotiating over the debt ceiling, whereas U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, is holding firm to his position of requiring one dollar in spending cuts for every dollar increase to the debt ceiling. It is not clear how this debate will be resolved; however, the side that is perceived to have won this fight will have momentum going into the December debate over funding the government for the rest of the fiscal year.
Stay tuned to the Policy Blotter for more updates on the federal appropriations process!