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Budget experts: Feds should brace for more continuing resolutions

May. 14, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
By ANDY MEDICI   |   Comments

Federal employees should expect another continuing resolution as Congress struggles to pass traditional spending bills, according to budget experts.

The House has already passed spending bills for military construction, the Veterans Affairs Department and the legislative branch. The House Appropriations Committee has voted on the Commerce Department, Justice Department and science legislation.

The House must pass 12 bills to cover all of government by the end of September in order to avoid another continuing resolution.

Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, fully intends to introduce and vote on all 12 bills on time, according to committee spokeswoman Jennifer Hing.

But budget experts disagree and predict another run of continuing resolutions as Congress avoids making tough spending decisions.

“There is no chance of getting a budget done this year,” budget expert and former House and Senate staffer Stan Collender said.

Collender, executive vice president at communications firm Qorvis, said it is getting increasingly difficult for Congress to pass individual appropriations bills — Veterans Affairs and legislative branch funding are the easiest — and the most likely scenario is the passage of a short-term continuing resolution.

He said Congress will most likely make a continuing resolution to last until after the November elections and into December. If Democrats lose the Senate, then Republicans will want to wait until next year to pass another budget, according to Collender.

He said another problem is that lawmakers are at odds over how much to cut and where, which means it’s hard to get agreement on specific spending items.

“On one hand the spending cuts are too deep for most members of Congress, but on the other hand there are some members who think they should be cutting more,” Collender said. “It’s hard to get anything done under the circumstances.”

Former House lawmaker Tom Davis, director of government affairs at consulting firm Deloitte, said the House will vote all the bills out but that they will be caught in the Senate — which probably won’t pass them all in time.

He said Congress might pass Defense Department spending legislation along with a few others and then pass a continuing resolution for whatever they don’t finish.

“You will probably get something done before October,” he said.

Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, said the odds of passing all of the appropriations bills before the end of the fiscal year are slim.

She said it was discouraging to see lawmakers give up so quickly on the budgeting process and instead focus on continuing resolutions, which keeps the status quo and doesn’t force hard choices on spending programs.

“I think that not going through the normal budget process is an excuse to not making any decisions about the budget,” she said. “It becomes budgeting by abdication of responsibility.”■

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