Congressional Leaders Reach Deal to Fund Government Through Election

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Failure to pass a continuing resolution could lead to a federal shutdown just before the presidential balloting.

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Reuters

The House will have just eight legislative workdays in September, and at least one of them will now be spent taking up a stopgap spending bill to fund the government past the election and through what is expected to be an extraordinarily hectic lame-duck session.

The chamber will not take up a continuing resolution bill this week, according to aides, but House and Senate leaders are expected to announce as early as Tuesday afternoon that they have reached an informal agreement to take up a roughly six-month continuing resolution when they return from the August recess.

An announcement would signal that House Speaker John Boehner, President Obama, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have agreed that the resolution would last six months and continue spending at the current rate.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers isn't thrilled about the half-year plan, though, because of the complications inherent in stopgap funding; appropriators would like to return to regular order, or at least keep any stopgap bill brief. Earlier speculation centered on whether Congress would adopt a two- or six-month extension.

"From our perspective, it would be better to have a short-term CR," Rogers press secretary Jen Hing said, noting the bills "are meant to be short-term Band-Aids."

Leadership decided instead to put off wrangling over discretionary funding until after the already heavily burdened lame duck.

A bill cannot come to the floor this week, though, in part because the Congressional Budget Office has not updated its score for the current fiscal year's spending rate, effectively precluding legislation extending that rate.

That score, to be released in August, is expected to show a slightly higher spending rate than the $1.043 trillion discretionary cap for fiscal 2012, thanks to the delay of some rescissions. A slight uptick could actually ease passage of a stopgap bill, because it would partially close the gap between the enacted fiscal '12 $1.043 trillion rate and the $1.047 trillion fiscal '13 rate set by the Budget Control Act last August. It is unclear whether Senate Democrats will call for a continuing resolution at the higher rate.

By announcing the intended length of the planned resolution this week, congressional leaders are giving agency officials time to put together requests for "anomalies," specific technical exemptions that would extend certain programs and activities, such as the permission for the District of Columbia to use its locally collected funds, not covered under a continuing resolution.

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Katy O'Donnell is a staff reporter (budget, taxes, and trade) for National Journal.

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