Congress Working to Pass Temporary Funding Bill This Week

n4a legislative update

Congress Working to Pass Temporary Funding Bill This Week

Shutdown Talks Begin; Long-Term Funding Debates On Tap Following Elections

September 27, 2016

Congress has yet to agree on a federal funding plan for FY 2017, which starts on October 1. Both the House and the Senate Appropriations Committees have passed their respective proposals to fund federal programs in FY 17, but none of the 12 separate spending bills have made it through the full legislative process and been enacted into law.  

Facing a deadline of Friday, September 30 to achieve a federal funding agreement, lawmakers were widely expected to push through a bill, known as a continuing resolution (CR), that would fund government programs through the election and into early December. A deal remains elusive, however, and federal agencies have begun prepping for a possible short-term, partial government shutdown.  

If Congress is able to pass a CR, it would provide a stop-gap funding solution to avoid a shutdown by extending current funding levels into the beginning of the upcoming fiscal year. A CR would temporarily fund government agencies, but this strategy would prevent any FY 17 policy or funding changes the House or Senate proposed from being implemented. Following the election, a lame-duck Congress would also have to agree on extending a CR past mid-December or lawmakers would need to pass a longer-term funding plan for the remainder of the fiscal year.  

What’s Next for a Continuing Resolution?  

We initially expected that in the weeks preceding a national election, Congress would avoid the political fallout from a shutdown, but the exact next steps toward a temporary funding plan are yet unclear. The Senate took the lead on advancing a CR last week, but disagreements among Republicans and Democrats about the details of the bill are hampering speedy approval. Dispute over whether to include funding for the water crisis in Flint, MI is the primary point of contention from Senate Democrats, who object to a Republican-proposed bill that does not include this disaster assistance.  

At this point, we do know about the CR will likely include a short-term, across-the-board, 0.5 percent funding cut for all federal programs. This cut is intended to ensure that overall spending stays within budget cap for FY 17 established in the Bipartisan Budget Agreement of last year. Whether a cut would extend beyond December depends on how negotiations proceed following the election. As it currently stands, even though the Senate has scheduled votes this week to approve a CR, lawmakers have not agreed on a final bill to bring to the Senate floor. Assuming differences about disaster relief funding are successfully hashed out among Senators, reports predict that the House is prepared to expedite a Senate-passed measure in time to meet the Friday deadline.  

Federal Funding Outlook Following the Election  

Progress on FY 2017 appropriations this fall will likely depend on the outcome of the November election. If the Administration and/or the Senate change party affiliation, a lame-duck Congress may be reticent to make appropriations decisions before a new Congress and Administration take office in January. If that is the case, we could see either a series of short-term CRs, or a longer-term CR, extend into the first months of the new year. Alternatively, the current Congress may move to finish their work this year and achieve a deal on federal funding for the remainder of FY 2017. Such a deal would probably include a massive funding bill that lumps all agencies into one legislative package—known as an omnibus.  

n4a and many other advocates in Washington are advocating for lawmakers to reach a deal for FY 17 appropriations following the election and to reject repeatedly extending FY 16 funding levels through continuing resolutions. Should the House and the Senate pursue this path, they would need to reconcile differences in each chamber’s funding bill—including significant differences in funding levels proposed for Older Americans Act and other aging programs.  

n4a has been talking to appropriators and staff to encourage them to accept the House-proposed funding levels for OAA programs, which include a number of modest, but important, increases to supportive services, meals and other OAA programs. The House bill also rejects Senate’s elimination of the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) and cut to the OAA Title V SCSEP program.  

More details about the FY 2017 funding bills for OAA and other aging programs proposed in the House and the Senate are available in our previous n4a Legislative Updates, as well as in our updated n4a Appropriations Chart.  

What Can Aging Advocates Do?  

Passing a CR is important to avoid a government shutdown, but it is important that local advocates weigh in with lawmakers and stress the need to finish FY 2017 appropriations this year. It is also critical that we keep up the drumbeat about the need for funding increases for OAA and other aging programs. Stay tuned for updates about the FY 2017 appropriations process as they are available, and continue to contact your Members of Congress with these important messages!  

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This Legislative Update is an n4a membership benefit. For more information about these and other federal aging policy issues, please contact n4a’s policy team: Amy Gotwals (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) and Autumn Campbell (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.), 202.872.0888.

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