Congress Steps Back from the Edge (again)

The House and Senate finally agreed to a temporary extension of funding to forestall a full scale government shutdown…and then went home until next week.

In a confusing flurry of amendments and substitutes – at the end of last week, the Senate rejected the House passed Continuing Resolution (CR) (HR 2608) that would have funded the government through November 18…the date by which the “Super Committee” is to have found an equitable path forward for budget reductions.

On Monday, the Senate then proposed two stopgap funding options for the House to consider – the first would be a very brief CR through October 4 to allow the House some time to deliberate over the revised provisions contained in the second measure; the second is a modified version of the original House passed HR 2608 but includes a smaller allocation for FEMA and disaster aid funding.  By removing $1 billion in disaster aid for fiscal 2011 that was in the original House-passed bill, the Senate averted a standoff with the House over rescinding $1.6 billion for DOE loan guarantees to promote energy efficiency.  The rescission was intended to offset the current-year disaster money, and without the fiscal 2011 funds, the offset was no longer needed.

Yesterday, House leaders called for a vote…and gave a nominal “thumbs up” to the brief CR that expires on Tuesday, October 4.  That keeps the government running just long enough for everyone to get back to town and then figure out whether to agree to a second CR proposal that would extend government spending until November 18…or choose something else altogether.