In the early hours of the morning of September 22, 2012, the Senate concluded its final votes until after the November 6th elections, joining the House of Representatives in recess. During the Senate’s midnight session, the continuing resolution (CR) that will maintain federal funding through March 27, 2012, was passed by a 62 to 30 vote. The House had passed the same measure by an overwhelming majority the previous week. The president signed the funding measure on September 28, 2012.
While many of the twelve FY 2013 appropriations bills providing for federal funding October 1, 2012—September 30, 2013 advanced through Senate and House Appropriations Committees, and several passed out of the House, none passed out of the full Senate. Passage of the negotiated CR in lieu of package of appropriations bills (omnibus appropriations), which funds federal programs at a 0.612% increase of FY 2012 funding levels, prevents a possible government shutdown and allows Members of Congress to return home to campaign.
While discretionary programs, such as the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative (TPPI) and the Division of Adolescent School Health (DASH), receive the nominal 0.612% increase over last year’s funding for the first six months of FY 2013, the CR requires agencies to spend conservatively as the funding for the remainder of the fiscal year is still unknown. Negotiations on the final funding for FY 2013 will begin again next year in February and March, around the same time the administration will be releasing the budget for FY 2014.
The funding issue of concern prior to either of these is the automatic cuts (sequestration) scheduled to go into effect on January 2, 2013. As a result of Congress’ failure to pass a $1.2 trillion ten-year savings plan last year as mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011, defense and non-defense discretionary programs will face funding cuts of approximately 8% unless Congress acts to prevent the cuts.
Avoiding sequestration is merely one of multiple issues facing Congress after the election, among which are addressing the multiple tax breaks that expire at the end of the year, the expiration of emergency unemployment benefits, and the decrease of Medicare doctor’s reimbursement rates without any congressional action.
Congress is expected to return to the Capitol the week after the elections. The election results will dramatically influence the negotiations and resolution of sequestration and the other challenges facing the nation.
U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 112th Congress - 2nd Session, H.J. Res. 117, (22 September 2012), accessed September 24, 2012, http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=112&session=2&vote=00199.
“H.J. Res. 117 Making continuing appropriations for fiscal year 2013, and for other purposes,” accessed September 24, 2012, http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-112hjres117enr/pdf/BILLS-112hjres117enr.pdf.
“OMB Report Pursuant to the Sequestration Transparency Act of 2012 (P. L. 112–155)” (14 September 2012), accessed September 24, 2012, http://publichealthfunding.org/uploads/OMB_Sequester_Report.pdf.