Continuing Resolution Sets Stage for 2013

Later today, the House will vote on the Continuing Resolution (CR), a stopgap-spending bill for the first half of the 2013 fiscal year, which starts on October 1.  CQ reports (sub. req’d) that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) believes the Senate will follow suit next week, provided there are no major changes made to the bill.

The AP explains that is exactly what is likely to happen:

“The Senate is expected to easily pass the bill next week and then is likely to exit Washington for the campaign.

The spending measure is the last major piece of pre-election legislation likely to be enacted into law from a Congress that’s been mostly gridlocked from the moment it took the oath of office.”

In July, Reid and Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) struck this deal to fund the government and potentially avoid a disastrous lame-duck session of Congress.  AP continues:

“The six-month spending measure has backing from conservatives who want to avoid the prospect of an omnibus spending bill in the post-election lame duck session and who hope to have greater leverage next year.

“If you anticipate being in a better bargaining position in January,” said Rep. Scott Garrett, R-N.J., “why go to the bargaining table in December?”

Although many members of Congress will begrudgingly vote for the bill, mainly for that strategic purpose, the CR is still undergoing a thorough examination. Heritage’s Patrick Knudsen explains the bill’s lack of fiscal restraint:

“Equally frustrating is the lack of restraint the measure demonstrates, even in the face of chronic trillion-dollar-plus deficits. The typical CR holds spending to levels consistent with the prior year’s policies—in this case $1.039 trillion, according to the latest estimates by the Congressional Budget Office. Instead, the CR increases spending by $8 billion, including a 0.6 percent across-the-board boost, to fill up the $1.047 level prescribed by last year’s debt ceiling agreement, the Budget Control Act. That is $19 billion above the House budget resolution level ($1.028 trillion), but the Senate—which has not passed a budget in more than three years—insisted on this unnecessary spending hike.”

Knudsen agrees a lame-duck session “would likely produce an even worse result” than the current bill which simply “extends the federal government’s incoherent fiscal policy.”  There is no doubt that Congress has gotten itself into a bind, in large part due to decades of overspending on big-government solutions.  The real question is whether, come 2013, lawmakers will have the will to fix the problems they created, rather than punting.

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