Congress is heading into the final stretch of its summer work period having passed none of its annual spending bills. What’s more, with the start of the next budget year some 70 days away, a tit-for-tat between the Democrat-controlled Senate and the GOP-run House means it’s unlikely that any of the bills will reach the president’s desk for his signature.
So with Capitol Hill calcified with partisan gridlock, lawmakers are gearing up for an all-too-familiar annual routine: kicking their appropriating responsibilities down the road by passing temporary, stopgap funding bills to avoid a government shutdown at the start of the next fiscal year Oct. 1.
A central duty of Congress is to appropriate money for the federal government to stay open, an annual process that is supposed to be handled through 12 major spending bills. By law, all such appropriations measures must originate in the House before moving on to the Senate. On Thursday, the House passed a 2013 spending plan for the Pentagon— the seventh appropriations bill to clear the lower chamber this year.
But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, has refused to take up any of the House’s spending bills before the November elections, saying they include more cuts than Congress agreed to as part of last summer’s hotly contested compromise to raise the federal debt limit.