CR vs. Omnibus Funding

At the end of the summer, “conventional wisdom” pointed to a series of continuing resolutions (CR) as the preferred vehicle to fund government operations until the beginning of the next Congress in January 2015.  More recently, however, signals from both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees seems to suggest a willingness to move forward with an Omnibus Appropriations measure to fund all 12 appropriations accounts for FY 15.  Action would take place during the lame duck session (that period after the November elections and before the swearing in of new members in January).

The foundation for an Omnibus approach was laid late last year when House and Senate negotiators came to agreement on broad spending levels for FYs 14 and 15.  The agreement provided that spending for FY 15 could not exceed 1% of current levels.  This means that most of the appropriations measures that have been crafted in the House and Senate would, generally, align in terms of overall funding levels.  Of course, specific programmatic funding could vary dramatically within an appropriation measure and insertion or deletion of policy directives would not be affected.  For the proposed EPA budget, House and Senate are about $600 million apart with the House providing $7.5 billion and the Senate proposing about $8.1 billion.

The decision to choose CR vs. Omnibus will likely play out shortly after next week’s election.  Should the Republicans take the Senate, the prevailing thought is that they’d extend the current CR (set to expire on December 11) until after the start of the new Congress.  Such a tactic would allow them to have greater sway in determining whether or how much to spend on domestic programs in 2015.