Funding…for now

Oct. 1 marks the beginning of the federal fiscal year, which means that Congress must come up with a plan to fund the government for the coming fiscal year or the government will shut down. In the nick of time, Congress and President Obama agreed to a temporary continuing resolution that will fund the government through Dec. 11.

A continuing resolution is a stop-gap funding measure that essentially states that Congress could not come up with a plan to fund the government for the coming fiscal year and will simply fund it as it had the year before. So funding levels from fiscal 2015 will continue into the first couple of months of FY16.

The passage of the CR has not alleviated fears of a government shutdown, though. With the resignation of U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, the leaders of the House Republican conference are not known. However, there is a concern that the new leaders will take a more confrontational approach to negotiations with Obama and the Senate. Such an approach led to the government shutdown in 2013, which delayed research funding and study sections for thousands of scientists, and could make it happen again at the end of this year.

However, an effort to circumvent a December shutdown may be underway. Shortly after announcing his resignation, Boehner and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, met with Obama to begin discussing a two-year budget agreement. Similar to the Ryan-Murray budget agreement, a deal could pave the way to fund the government until the next president is elected, and eliminate the potential of a government shutdown until 2017.

Federal funding issues don’t typically get resolved until a deadline is about to be breached. The first date to remember this fall is Oct. 30, the last day of Boehner’s term in the House. If a bargain can be struck between Boehner, McConnell and Obama to fund the government, then the specter of a government shutdown will be removed and the next fiscal debate will center on the nation’s debt limit. However, if a deal is not passed, then the CR will expire on Dec. 11 and may mark the beginning of a government shutdown.

The ASBMB Policy Blotter will continue to have updates on these negotiations as they progress.

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