Congress returns from its summer recess next week to a full plate of unfinished business, starting with the need to fund federal agencies past the September 30 ending date of the current fiscal year. While that situation always raises the prospects of a partial government shutdown—such as the one that occurred in 2013–the most likely outcome again appears to be a temporary measure continuing agency spending authority at current levels until sometime after the elections, when Congress plans another session after recessing again over the month of October and through the elections. Both the House and Senate have made some progress on the regular appropriations bills for fiscal year 2017 but it’s not expected that many if any of them will be enacted over the next month. Traditionally, such partial progress forms the basis of a later longer-term budget measure, most likely covering the entirety of the new budget year. Meanwhile, OMB has warned that the House bills as collectively crafted so far could trigger in 2017 a round of “sequestration” spending cuts similar to those that occurred in 2013 and that resulted in widespread unpaid furloughs in many agencies (for which employees were not later repaid; employees later were repaid for furlough time due to the partial shutdown in October that year). However, OMB said spending levels in the Senate versions would comply with the 2011 budget agreement that set a series of spending caps, and officials have said they expect the final budget for fiscal 2017 would not require sequestration.
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