Lawmakers Focus on Continuing Resolution

Congress returned Monday from August recess with a list of must-pass items to address before they depart for midterm elections. Facing yet another looming deadline, Congress has less than ten legislative days before current government funds run out on Sept. 30. One of Congress’ top priorities this week is to pass a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the federal government funded into the new fiscal year (FY), which starts Oct. 1.

This Thursday, House lawmakers are expected to consider a $1.014 trillion stopgap measure to keep the government running through Dec. 11, 2014. To date, a number of appropriations bills that passed the House have not been approved by the Senate, and a CR is likely the only piece of legislation that will advance before midterms. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers (R-Ky.) intends to keep the CR as “clean” as possible, without any controversial policy riders that could compromise passage in either chamber, and repeat last year’s government shutdown.To that end, legislators are hopeful that a clean CR will pass swiftly in both chambers.

Reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank of the U.S. (Ex-Im Bank), whose charter expires Sept. 30, was one of the few non-spending measures included in the House CR which proposes a temporary extension to June 30, 2015 for Ex-Im. Ex-Im Bank helps finance American exports of manufactured goods and services primarily in circumstances when alternative financing is not available. Congress also must deal with the Internet Tax Freedom Act (expiring on Nov. 1), making it illegal to impose taxes to access the Internet, which has bipartisan support for a short-term extension. Also included in the CR is language to temporarily extend this provision through Dec. 11, 2014.

If a CR bill is passed, resolving spending decisions for FY 2015 may be addressed in the post-election lame duck session in December, giving appropriators time to reach a deal on a year-end omnibus spending bill. At that time, Congress could extend the CR for a few months until March or up until the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30, 2015.