Congressional gridlock makes continuing resolution almost certain

Congressional gridlock has made the passage of a continuing resolution for at least part of fiscal 2015 a near certainty, according to lawmakers and budget experts.

When Congress returns from its summer recess Sept. 8, it will have passed not a single one of the 12 spending bills required to keep the government operating. Congress has only 10 days of work scheduled in September.

The House has passed seven of the bills on its own, but President Obama has issued veto threats against most of them for cutting deep into federal programs or agency workforces.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, is pushing to pass for an omnibus spending bill before the end of September.

If Congress were to pass a continuing resolution, it would not extend further than the end of the calendar year, according to a Mikulski spokesman.

While Mikulski strongly supports a pay raise for federal employees, there are competing priorities for Congress including the border, Iraq, Syria and other events that require congressional attention, the spokesman said.

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., said Republicans need to stop playing politics with federal employees and pass appropriations legislation that can pass the Senate and be signed by the president.

“Congress must pass a continuing resolution that avoids another Republican shutdown and, more importantly, develop a long-term budget compromise that finally restores funding above sequester levels for the duration of fiscal 2015 and beyond,” Connolly said.

He urged Congress to pass a 3.3-percent pay raise for federal employees or include it as part of the budget talks in September.

“After a three-year wage freeze, wage-reducing work furloughs, sequester cuts and a government shutdown, our nation’s dedicated federal employees deserve fair compensation,” Connolly said.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, believes Congress should pass a continuing resolution without extraneous amendments that sticks to the budget levels laid out in the Budget Control Act of 2011, according to a Coburn spokesperson.

Congress is most likely to pass a short-term continuing resolution instead of anything that covers what little is left in the fiscal year, according to the spokesperson. If Congress cannot pass any appropriations bills, the federal government will shut down. In 2013, the government shut down for the first half of October after Congress failed to pass legislation.

But another government shutdown is highly unlikely, according to Tom Davis, director of Federal Government Affairs for Deloitte and former chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

“Nobody wants to fight over this stuff. They do not want a shutdown just before the election,” Davis said.

But Davis said there is no way Congress can pass all appropriations bills in regular order.

“They may pass one or two, but the bulk of the funding will go into a continuing resolution, and then they will do something at the end [of this year] or the beginning of next year,” Davis said.

A continuing resolution is a certainty, and it will probably keep funding levels for agencies flat — with no increase from fiscal 2014 to 2015, according to Stan Collender, federal budget expert and former House and Senate staffer.

Collender, executive vice president at communications firm Qorvis, said Congress will probably pass a continuing resolution lasting until mid-December and then pass a bill for the rest of 2015.

Author: Michael J. Mikulka

President, AFGE Local 704, representing over 900 bargaining unit employees working at the U.S. EPA Region 5 Offices in Chicago, Grosse Ile, MI and Westlake, OH.

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