Advancing a Free Society

What is a continuing resolution?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The new federal fiscal year begins at 12:01 AM Friday, October 1st.

Much of the federal government is funded through twelve annual appropriations bills.

If an appropriations bill that funds part of the federal government is not enacted before the new fiscal year begins, that part of the government shuts down except for essential employees.

While the House has passed two of the twelve bills, the Senate has passed zero.  Most of the federal government will therefore shut down early Friday morning.

It is not unusual for the Congress to fail to enact all 12 appropriations laws before October 1st.  It is quite unusual to not have even tried to pass a single one by this time.  This is related to the House and Senate majority’s inability (or refusal) to pass a budget resolution back in the spring, and in my view it represents a fundamental failure of governance that is independent of the substantive content of these laws.  I would probably dislike many of the 12 appropriations bills that would be passed by this Congress, but I still think America would be better off if they had gotten at least some of their work done on time.

I expect that, between now and Thursday midnight, the House and Senate will pass and the President will sign into law a continuing resolution, commonly referred to by insiders as a CR.

A continuing resolution (CR) is a law that provides temporary funding for those parts of the federal government for which annual appropriations laws have not yet been enacted.

Even more simply, a continuing resolution is a temporary short-term spending truce.

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