With the regular budget process stalled and the new fiscal
year set to begin on October 1, Congress has two options: pass a temporary
continuing resolution that extends federal agency and program funding from the
prior year or shut down the government until it can come to an agreement on
spending. House leaders are currently struggling to come up with a plan to
avert a government shutdown after they were forced to delay a vote on a
short-term continuing resolution (CR) in the face of a revolt by some members
intent on using the measure to “defund” the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The
Senate will not vote on a CR until after it is passed by the House.
On September 10, House Appropriations Committee Chair Hal
Rogers (R-KY) released
a CR to fund and keep the federal government, including the National
Institutes of Health (NIH), running through December 15 at a level slightly
below the current, post-sequestration level of $988 billion in FY 2013. The
House was originally scheduled to consider the CR on September 12; however, the
Republican leadership was forced to delay consideration because they did not
have sufficient votes for passage.
Conservative House Republicans want
to leverage the need for a CR to further reduce federal spending and eliminate
funding for the ACA. They rejected a plan drafted by House Majority Leader Eric
Cantor (R-VA) to link a resolution withholding funds for the ACA to the CR. If
the House passed the health care resolution, the Senate would have to vote on
it before voting on the CR. However, the Senate could reject the health care
funding resolution and still pass the CR, as was done in 2011.
House may attempt to consider an alternative CR later this week that
intertwines the government funding extension with language to defund the ACA, a
measure that will not be able to get enough votes to pass the Senate and the
President has indicated he will not sign. Ultimately, this leaves very little
time before the end of the fiscal year for Congress to reach a compromise on a
short-term spending plan and avoid a government shutdown.
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