To Omnibus…or Not…

Now that the Republicans will have clear control over both chambers beginning in January, the decision becomes one of how to proceed with overdue FY 15 funding.  The existing Continuing Resolution (CR) expires on December 11.  GOP leaders are pondering the pros and cons of three different approaches:

  • Pass another short-term CR through February or March 2015 to allow newly seated Republicans to vote next year on funding and potential policy provisions that better reflect Republican positions.
  • Pass an Omnibus bill during the Lame Duck session that would include all 12 appropriations accounts at roughly the same broad funding levels as in FY 14. This would allow Republicans to “clear the decks” so to speak and begin fresh to work on FY 16 funding with the new Congress in January.
  • Pass a year-long CR that would fund the government through the end of the fiscal year and allow new members a chance to get their “sea legs” before having to vote on fairly complex legislation.

All three options are being considered.  At present, several of the most conservative House members want another short term CR so that they have a stronger shot at crafting policy changes in whatever measure is finally passed.  House and Senate appropriators, however, appear to be more supportive of passing an Omnibus measure now so that Federal agencies could begin to plan or continue support for a range of programs whose fates are uncertain absent a final funding figure.  The idea of a year-long CR is somewhat appealing for some rank and file Republican members who would prefer to spend time considering how best to fund government programs under their new “in power” regime.

Decisions are expected to be made fairly soon as, even in a Lame Duck session, Congress takes time for the holidays.  They will be “in” only between November 12 and 20 and December 1 and 12.  They will reconvene for at least one day on Saturday, January 3, 2015 to set schedules until the beginning of the 114th Congress later that month.