Congress over the next several weeks aims to address several major issues, the most pressing of which is the need to extend agency spending authority set to expire September 30.
It’s generally expected that Congress once again will turn to a “continuing resolution” to temporarily extend spending authority generally at current levels, with some added for pressing needs. The White House already has asked for funding boosts or new authority for a long list of programs including aid for recent natural disasters.
How long such an extension would last is uncertain; such measures have ranged from several weeks to several months, with a series of them sometimes needed before a final version is enacted.
Enactment of stopgap measures is a largely routine step even in years such as this one in which Congress has made only little progress in writing the regular appropriations bills for the new fiscal year. However, differences over policy have at times triggered partial agency shutdowns; that occurred most recently and most notably in late 2018 resulting in a record-setting partial shutdown of more than a month.
One current potential hangup is the upcoming need to raise the federal debt ceiling, which often is the focus of budgetary brinksmanship. The limit already has been passed but the government has been using various financial maneuvers to free up available funds. That leeway is expected to expire sometime in October.
Disputes over two other major bills before Congress also could come into play. One is an infrastructure spending measure that has passed the Senate with enough bipartisan support to overcome a potential filibuster there. The House further is crafting wide-ranging bill reflecting many Biden administration priorities that is being considered under special “reconciliation” rules that would require only a simple majority vote in the Senate.
The House plans to take up both by the end of the month, although the numerous differences over the policy provisions and spending levels in both has called that schedule into question. Also on the House schedule for voting as soon as next week is the annual DoD authorization bill, which would revise probationary policies and RIF retention policies at that department, among numerous other policies.