September 30, 2010
Just before midnight this morning, Congress passed a continuing resolution to extend this year’s federal spending levels into fiscal year 2011. The Senate approved the continuing resolution yesterday evening before sending it to the House for a final vote. The House sent the bill to the President early this morning.
The continuing resolution will fund federal programs at FY 2010 levels until December 3, 2010. Upon its return to Washington in November after the elections, the “lame duck” Congress will either pass new FY 2011 appropriations bills or, failing that, another continuing resolution. Our strong hope is the real bill, with the revised spending levels, will be approved by December 3. If not, a second continuing resolution would likely extend through February or March of next year.
The House passed the continuing resolution 228-194, while the Senate passed it 69-30. Over the last week, some Republicans had been calling for the resolution to be funded at FY 2008 levels rather than FY 2010 levels and some Democrats sought to make adjustments to particular accounts that would otherwise be shortchanged. However, when the time came to debate the measure, members kept their remarks brief and the resolution clean in an effort to leave town quickly for November elections.
Two Republican Senators offered amendments to the resolution. Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) offer an amendment to extend the continuing resolution through February 4, 2011, presumably with the expectation of additional Republican votes next year. The amendment was defeated 39-60. Senator John Thune (R-SD) proposed a 5 percent cut in discretionary spending, not including defense, homeland security, and veterans’ programs. Senator Thune’s amendment was defeated 48-51.
Unfortunately, Congress did not use the continuing resolution as the vehicle for providing emergency funding to fulfill the federal obligation in the Pigford II settlement between black farmers and USDA. Congress will now wait until after November elections to determine how to provide funding for the discrimination claims.
A reminder of some of the items at stake in the agricultural appropriations bill that may be considered and finalized in November:
Both bills would provide start-up funding for the new Healthy Food Financing Initiative and would allow a partial start for the new Rural Regional Innovation Initiative, both Administration priorities. Both bills would also increase funding for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative by about $50 million.
NSAC will continue to monitor the appropriations process, and keep readers apprised of any new developments.