March 18, 2011
On Thursday, March 17, the Senate passed a three-week continuing resolution, which extends fiscal year (FY) 2010 federal funding levels until April 8. The House passed companion legislation on Tuesday, March 15, so the bill will now go to the President’s desk for his signature.
As we reported in an earlier blog post, the three-week extension will cut $6 billion dollars in spending, including $3.5 billion from authorized programs and $2.6 billion in earmarks. Click here for a description of the major cuts to agriculture research, extension, education, and conservation accounts contained in the short-term CR.
Combined with earlier $4 billion cut included as part of the previous two-week extension, the total reduction below FY 2010 levels to $10 billion, already $1 billion more than the Senate Democrats proposed as a counter offer to the House-passed $60 billion in cuts.
Congress must now pass a spending bill–either another short term CR or long term (6-month) CR to fund the government for the remainder of the fiscal year–before April 8 to avoid a government shutdown. With negotiations between Democrats and Republicans picking up speed in recent days — and with more legislators now opposed to additional short-term extensions — it is looking increasingly likely that Congress will pass a long-term CR by April 8.
Acting on behalf of the Obama Administration, it seems that the Office of Management and the Budget (OMB) Director Jacob Lew has taken a central role in negotiating a final deal with House Republicans, possibly boxing out Senate Democrats in the process. It remains to be seen whether Senate Democrats will have a voice, or whether, as some observers think, they will be handed a final package to take or leave.
We will continue to monitor the process and report on the fight to save critical agricultural conservation, rural development, and research programs.
Click here to learn more about H.R. 1, the original $60 billion cut offered by the House, and here to learn more about the Senate counter offer, which would cut roughly $9 billion relative to FY10 spending levels.
As Congress returns home for a one-week recess next week, we will be issuing a call to action early next week to focus attention on USDA and the White House and the need for them to stop cuts to conservation and credit. We urge our readers to stay tuned for that urgent appeal.