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Entries in Continuing Resolution (18)

Thursday
Mar212013

Military to Reinstate Tuition Assistance Program

Creatas/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Active duty members of the military and their loved ones were thrilled Thursday when a vote in the House of Representatives reinstated the tuition assistance program for military members.

The Republican majority House voted Thursday to approve the 2013 Continuing Resolution, a stopgap measure that funds federal agencies through Sept. 30. The resolution includes an amendment instructing secretaries of the branches of the military to reinstate the program until the end of fiscal year 2013. Thursday’s legislation does not cover cuts specifically prescribed in the automatic, across-the-board sequester legislation.

Cmdr. Leslie Hull-Ryde, a spokesperson for the Department of Defense, said his office values the tuition assistance program, but the fiscal climate is ripe for reevaluating programs.

“As always, whenever the president signs legislation proposed by Congress into law, we will comply,” Hull-Ryde wrote in an email to ABC News Thursday. “If enacted, this legislation would require the services to make difficult and very thoughtful decisions on how to fund tuition assistance throughout the remainder of FY13 without impacting readiness.”

John Harrison, 26, is a sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps, and his wife, Amanda, 25, had been looking for work since October, when the couple moved from North Carolina to where he is stationed in California. Amanda had created a petition on Change.org asking leaders to reverse the suspensions.

The Harrisons are unsure of how much funding they’ll receive going forward. But even a fraction of what they received before to help John pursue his bachelor’s degree in intelligence analysis would be more than amenable to the couple.

“The question is, what do we do next and what can we expect?” Harrison told ABC News Thursday. “Right now they’re paying nothing, so yes, 75 percent sounds really great.”

“The cost of living in California is a lot higher than it was in North Carolina, so we’ve had to adjust a lot,” Amanda said. She recently found out she will be starting a job soon, but she is also a full-time student, earning her own bachelor’s degree.

One of the benefits John saw in the military was the opportunity to finance the rest of his education.

“There was no money for him to go to college as far as his parents were concerned, and so he wasn’t really sure who was going to pay for it,” Amanda said.

John initially feared he would have to put his studies aside when he heard the Marines were suspending their program, but Amanda was determined that he would see it through. If he deployed or if the couple decided to have children, she expected he would be too busy to take classes.

“My opinion is that we have to try and find some way to make it work,” she said. “If you have time, you need to go to school, and you can’t just keep waiting around.”

A degree will make John eligible for a higher pay grade if he stays in the service, and more attractive to private employers once he leaves, Amanda said.

Amanda’s petition received over 42,000 signatures in less than three weeks. She said the response had been overwhelmingly supportive, with military mothers, spouses and even veterans writing to tell her how the tuition assistance program made a difference in their lives.

“It’s so valuable,” Amanda said of the program, “and my family and a lot of other families, we sacrifice a lot as far as other income we could have and our own family as far as where can we live, what can we do, when can we do it, time with our family…”

“[Tuition assistance] is a huge benefit…It’s something that we all really appreciate.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar202013

Senate Passes Stopgap Bill to Fund Government

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate did its part Wednesday to stave off a government shutdown by passing a continuing resolution in order to keep the government funded.

The continuing resolution, known in Washington shorthand as the CR, is a stopgap appropriations measure. Congress is up against a March 27 deadline to keep the government funded through September, the end of the fiscal year.

The bill passed with a vote of 73-26 and now heads over to the House of Representatives for final passage.

Important to note, especially in context of Senate Democrats’ stripping out the assault-weapons ban within their gun legislation this week, is that the CR’s base bill includes making four longstanding gun protections permanent.

Also included in the Senate’s updated CR are many amendments that help alleviate the impact of budget cuts resulting from the so-called sequester. One bipartisan amendment passed today will shift money in the budget to avoid furloughs of food-safety inspectors because of the sequester.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., had an amendment that aimed to force the White House to reopen White House tours. The amendment would redirect $6 million in funds toward preserving visitor services and maintenance activities at national parks such as the White House and Yellowstone.

The amendment failed and Democrats argued that it would not have helped reopen White House tours, anyway.

Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., said today, “Those tours are governed by the Secret Service budget, which is not part of this amendment. So that would not be affected.”

The Senate bill keeps the same spending levels as the House bill, setting the top-line overall rate of spending at $982 billion, down from $1.043 trillion the previous fiscal year, but adds three appropriations measures: for homeland security and commerce; agriculture; and justice and science funds.

Since the bill was tweaked by the Senate, it now must be passed again by the House of Representatives.

Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, has said that so far it does not look as though the Senate’s changes to the CR will cause much of an uproar in the House of Representatives, meaning the bill as produced by the Senate could be easily and swiftly passed to President Obama for his final signature.

“I’ll wait and see what the Senate produces once it comes off the floor,” Boehner said last week of the Senate’s bill. “So far, so good.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Mar172013

Senate Aims to Pass Six-Month Stopgap Bill to Fund Government

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- This week, the Senate will attempt to stave off a government shutdown by working to pass a continuing resolution in order to keep the government funded.

The continuing resolution, known in Washington shorthand as the CR, is a stopgap appropriations measure. Congress is up against a March 27 deadline to keep the government funded for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends in September.

The CR was approved by the House of Representatives last week but hit roadblocks this week in the Senate, stalled by amendments, battles over amendments and some senators objecting due to not even having time to read the actual text.

“To not allow us the time to assess what you have produced by being able to read and study the bill goes against the best traditions of the Senate,” Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said on the floor of the Senate this week. “Are we just to blindly say that we approve this bill because we have a deadline at the end of the month?”

The Senate bill keeps the same spending levels as the House bill, setting the top-line overall rate of spending at $982 billion, down from $1.043 trillion the previous fiscal year, but adds three appropriations measures — for homeland security and commerce; agriculture; and justice and science funds.

Over the weekend, key senators will work to come up with amendments to the bill and the Senate is expected to vote next week towards passage, a message communicated by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to senators on Thursday evening as they left Washington for their home states.

“We need to move forward cautiously but quickly. We have next week,” Reid said on the Senate floor late Thursday night, asking for a small list of amendments “that we think would improve this bill and not further develop the ire of the speaker [House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio], who’s kind of in charge of a lot of what we do around here.”

The bill, when tweaked by the Senate, must be passed again by the House of Representatives.

Boehner has said that so far it does not look like the Senate’s changes to the CR will cause much of an uproar in the House of Representatives, meaning the bill as produced by the Senate could be easily and swiftly passed to President Obama for his final signature.

“I’ll wait and see what the Senate produces once it comes off the floor,” Boehner said this week of the Senate’s bill. “So far, so good.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Monday
Mar042013

House Likely to Pass Continuing Resolution on Thursday

Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- House Republicans unveiled a stopgap measure Monday to fund the federal government through the rest of the fiscal year, a move intended to mollify a deeply divided Congress that has fought through three years of bruising budget battles.

The continuing resolution, known around Washington as a CR, is subject to sequestration levels in its entirety, setting the top-line overall rate of spending at $982 billion, down from $1.047 trillion the previous fiscal year.

The CR keeps the FY2012 spending level as a base for 10 out of 12 appropriations bills, but notably, the legislation includes a full-year Defense appropriations bill, as well as a full-year Military Construction/Veterans Affairs appropriations bill.  These two measures, which are still subject to sequestration, were negotiated with broad bipartisan support even though they did not become law during the last session of Congress.

Aides on both sides of the aisle say the funding tactic enables lawmakers to respond to changing circumstances or address the funding priorities of an agency rather than rely on existing spending plans that may have become outdated or impractical.

“The legislation will avoid a government shutdown on March 27, prioritize DoD and Veterans programs, and allow the Pentagon some leeway to do its best with the funding it has,” Rep. Hal Rogers, the chairman of the appropriations committee, wrote in a statement Monday. “This CR package is the right thing to do, and it’s the right time to do it.”

For example, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told Congress the Pentagon has an $11 billion shortfall below the administration’s request this year for the Operations and Maintenance section of the defense budget. To close that deficit, the Defense appropriations bill included in the CR takes about $7 billion from Research and Development and Procurement and increases the authority for Operations and Maintenance by about $10.4 billion.

While in practice the rebalanced money for Operations and Maintenance cushions the effect of the arbitrary sequestration cuts, aides say legislators drafting the bill did not write the bill with the intent to offset sequestration.

“It’s just the right thing to focus on the core function of government: national security,” one House Republican aide said. “An $11 billion shortfall [in Operations and Maintenance] affects readiness.”

Democrats, however, contend that the Pentagon and Department of Veterans Affairs are “not unique” to the funding challenges facing Washington. Rep. Nita Lowey, the ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, said it is “extremely disappointing” that the CR locks most of the federal government into “outdated plans and spending levels.”

“Governing by continuing resolution limits the ability of federal departments and agencies to respond to changing circumstances, implement laws enacted by Congress, eliminate unnecessary spending, and budget responsibly,” said Lowey, D-N.Y.  “It has an adverse effect on federal efforts to improve schools, health care, and homeland security; protect the environment; and create jobs and grow the economy.”

The legislation also addresses an apparent need for increased security, identified after the Benghazi attack in Libya, by including a provision to increase the current level for embassy security by about $2 billion. The CR also provides additional funding for federal prisons and includes a provision requiring Immigration and Customs Enforcement “to sustain the mandated capacity of 34,000 detention beds.”

It also extends the current pay freeze for federal employees, which includes members of Congress and Senators, even though President Obama has issued an executive order implementing a 0.5 percent pay increase.

Despite an impasse over sequestration last week, House Speaker John Boehner emerged from a meeting with President Obama and other congressional leaders Friday, assuring reporters that a government shutdown is not in the cards.

“The House is going to move a continuing resolution next week to fund the government past March 27, and I’m hopeful that we won’t have to deal with the threat of a government shutdown while we’re dealing with the sequester at the same time,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said.

The bill is expected to be on the floor for debate on Wednesday and voted on Thursday.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Feb282013

Upcoming Fiscal Deadline May Prove Helpful in Dealing with Sequester

iStockPhoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- As unbelievable as it might seem, yet another fiscal deadline hangs over Washington. Unless Congress agrees to extend funding by March 27, the federal government will shut down, but this latest deadline may actually end up being helpful.

It could provide a convenient opportunity for President Obama and his Republican counterparts to reach an agreement that would prevent the worst effects of budget sequestration, the automatic spending cuts set to take effect Friday.

Since October 2010, the federal government has been funded by a series of “continuing resolutions,” temporary extensions of current discretionary spending on programs, other than mandatory entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare and some defense spending.

The government-shutdown deadline on March 27 falls neatly within the timeline of sequestration cuts.

Many of the worst effects of the sequester have to do with furloughs at the Transportation Security Administration, Bureau of Prisons, FBI and Customs and Border Patrol. Such furloughs won’t happen until early April because most agencies must give workers at least 30 days’ notice before sending them home.

With furloughs looming eight days later, it seems March 27 would be a good time for Obama and Congress to agree on a deal to avoid the sequester.

Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski has said she wants to use the March 27 deadline as an opportunity to deal with sequestration. “[Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid knows that a straight CR [continuing resolution] just won’t do it. It’s just a change of date,” Mikulski told Politico.

House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers doesn’t want the debate on sequestration and deficit reduction to interfere with continued government funding. He is simply pushing to extend current levels while drafting new appropriations bills for the Department of Defense, military construction and the Department of Veterans Affairs that would free those areas of spending from across-the-board cuts by allowing appropriators to reallocate money.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Sep132012

House Passes Six-Month, Stopgap Measure

Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) -- In a rare bipartisan vote, the House of Representatives passed a measure to fund the federal government for the next six months, one step in avoiding a bitter political fight before the election.

The measure, known around Washington, D.C., as a continuing resolution, passed 329-91 and funds the government for the next six months.

Each party delivered a near-equal amount of votes to pass the bill. Democrats had 164 ayes while Republicans had 165 members voting for it. Seventy Republicans and 21 Democrats opposed the legislation.

As has been the case in recent years, the House and Senate were unable to pass all 12 appropriations bills funding various pieces of the government. The House passed seven of 12, but the Senate did not vote on any appropriations bills. With the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, many lawmakers felt compelled to vote for the Continuing Resolution to keep the government operating and avoid a nasty political fight before the election.

The Senate is expected to vote on the CR at some point next week.

Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan returned to the Capitol for the first time since Mitt Romney selected him as his running mate last month, and voted in favor of the CR. Ryan, R-Wis., also voted for the National Security and Job Protection Act, another GOP attempt to replace the defense sequester.

After the House passed the measure, House Speaker John Boehner moved onto other outstanding business left for members of Congress, and called on the Senate to extend all the current tax rates and replace half a trillion dollars of defense cuts set to take effect Jan. 1, 2013.

“Now it’s time for President Obama and Senate Democrats to work with Republicans to avert the ‘fiscal cliff’ by stopping the tax hikes that threaten our economy and replacing the ‘sequester’ that threatens our national security,” Boehner, R-Ohio, wrote in a statement.

The Budget Control Act, passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama last summer, requires $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts equally divided between defense and domestic programs in the next decade, with the first $109 billion due to take effect Jan. 2, 2013.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Oct052011

House Sends CR to White House as Government Shutdown Averted

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- After a tit-for-tat squabble over the past couple of weeks, the House of Representatives has put aside its differences and easily passed a continuing resolution that will keep the government open for business.

The move also buys Congressional leaders six more weeks to negotiate a deal to fund the government through the end of the FY12 before the next threat of a shutdown showdown reaches Capitol Hill.

In a strong bipartisan vote, the bill was approved 352-66 Tuesday afternoon; 182 Republicans and 170 Democrats voted to pass the measure, which funds the federal government through Nov. 18.

But the opposition to the bill wasn’t so evenly split, with 53 Republicans voting against the bill and just 13 Democrats opposing its passage.

Of the 53 Republicans voting against the measure, 25 are freshmen members -- a little less than one-third of the freshman Republican Class, which boasts 87 members.

Having already passed the Senate last week, the bill now heads to the White House for President Obama’s signature.

“This common-sense measure will cut government spending for the second year in a row under a Republican-led House, ensure critical funding is available for Americans affected by natural disasters, and keep lawmakers focused on the top priority of the American people: jobs,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a statement following the bill’s passage.  “I’m pleased to see such a large bipartisan majority come together to pass this measure, and hope we can continue to find common ground -- in Congress and with the White House -- on removing government obstacles to private-sector job growth.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Sep262011

Senate Passes Government Funding and FEMA Deal: Shutdown Averted

Medioimages/Photodisc/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- In the end, they fought until there wasn’t much left to fight about.

“Let’s fight when there’s something to fight about, there’s nothing to fight about tonight,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said on the Senate floor Monday evening. “We’ve basically resolved this issue.”

Or, to be more correct -- they fought until FEMA’s updated accounting really resolved the issue.

Monday’s afternoon announcement that FEMA would have enough money to keep it up and running until the end of the week paved the way forward for the Senate to reach a deal Monday night that will keep the government and FEMA running. Both Republican and Democratic leaders acknowledged that FEMA’s announcement unlocked the deadlock and gave both sides a way out.

“Today’s news story coming out saying that FEMA’s disaster aid has enough money to last through this fiscal year, and this afternoon I received word from Jack Lew of OMB and FEMA that they will be able to get though the week without additional funding,” Reid said on the Senate floor. “That means that they can get through the fiscal year without more money.”

Republican leader Sen. Mitch McConnell R-Ky., came to the Senate floor afterward and agreed, saying it is a “compromise” and a “reasonable way” to keep the government operational.

By a bipartisan vote of 79-12 Monday evening the Senate approved a clean, six-week Continuing Resolution with no supplemental FY11 funds and no offsets to fund the government through Nov. 18. The measure gives FEMA $2.65 billion in funds for the next fiscal year, starting next week, without any added emergency spending for the end of this fiscal year. In addition the Senate passed a one-week CR to fund the government through Oct. 4 by a voice vote that the majority leader’s office says is in case Speaker Boehner needs additional time to bring the House back into session to finish the job on the six-week CR.

Although both sides in the Senate Monday night seemed happy the brinkmanship was over, for the time being, McConnell found one last reason to tweak his Democratic colleagues in the Senate a bit before voting.

“In my view this entire fire drill was completely and totally unnecessary, but I am glad a resolution appears to be at hand,” McConnell said.

The Senate has wrapped up its work for this week and will adjourn until next week. This measure will now be sent to the House of Representatives. The hope is that the House can pass the whole six-week package unanimously, but the House may only be able to pass the one-week extension, so the Senate is giving that option to them as well.

If they do not, Reid said the one-week funding bill that the Senate passed Monday provides a short-term funding bill until Oct. 4.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Sep242011

Continuing Resolutions: The New Norm?

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Unless Congress passes a continuing resolution in the next week, the federal government will shut down.

Sound familiar? It should. This is the ninth CR that Congress has had to pass this year to keep federal funds flowing to government agencies in the absence of a year-long budget. But this saga of stop-gap funding is not unique to the 112th Congress.

It had been 14 years since the House, the Senate and the president have all agreed on a bill to fund the government for an entire fiscal year. In the past 26 years, Congress and the president have agreed to a year-long budget only three times, in 1989, 1995 and 1997, according to a report from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.

Here’s how it is supposed to work, in theory.

The president submits his proposed budget to Congress in February. By the spring, both the House and Senate agree to their own version of the budget, which is then divided up into each committee.

The committees have the summer to figure out how to appropriate the funds allocated in the congressional budget. These subject-specific appropriations bills are then all supposed to pass through both chambers of Congress and be signed by the president before the fiscal year begins on Oct. 1.

“In recent decades, appropriations didn’t get done on time,” said Richard Kogan, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. “That is a 150-year-old problem, but it’s gotten worse.”

“It’s not so much that a continuing resolution is a bad way of governing as much as confrontation without resolution is a bad form of governing,” Kogan added.

For the past 14 years Congress has rarely passed its own budget, let alone approve each committee’s appropriations bills. Instead, both chambers sign off on a continuing resolution that allocates funds for a few months to hold them over until a full budget can be passed.

Those CRs have lasted anywhere from one to 157 days and averaged about three months of funding, according to a 2009 Government Accountability Office report.

In 2001, the final year of the Clinton administration, Congress passed 21 short-term funding bills, more than in any other year in the past quarter of a century.

If it passes, the funding bill that is currently stalled in Congress will keep federal funds flowing through Nov. 18. If it does not, the government will shut down for the 18th time in modern history.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio´╗┐

Friday
Sep232011

House Passes Temporary Spending Bill after Minor Tweak

Medioimages/Photodisc/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- On the second attempt in two days, the House of Representatives narrowly passed the GOP’s continuing resolution just before 1:00 a.m. Friday after the Republican leadership was able to swing half of the Republican ‘nay’ votes to their favor by adding an amendment to strip $100 million from a federal loan program that funded the bankrupt Solyndra.

The vote was razor thin, passing 219-203, with 12 members not voting.  Six Democrats joined 213 Republicans in supporting the measure.

On Wednesday evening, 48 Republicans, including 20 freshmen, voted with Democrats to bring down the vote on its first attempt.  But this time, about half of those Republicans voted back with the bulk of their party in favor of the bill.

The new offset would cut the remaining funds from the same government loan program that granted a $535 million loan guarantee to the now-bankrupt Solyndra solar company.

The bill now heads across the Capitol to the Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid says the bill will die a quick death Friday.

“I don't think they will get any [Democratic votes] over here,” Reid, D-Nev., said.  “This is not a high school game of I gotcha.  We’re all willing to be reasonable but we're not willing to vote unreasonably.”

House Speaker John Boehner, nevertheless, urged the Senate “to quickly pass this bill so we can send it to the president and keep our focus on the American people’s top priority: jobs.”

“This common-sense measure cuts spending for the second year in a row and protects our struggling economy from the uncertainty of a government shutdown.  It provides immediate assistance to Americans impacted by natural disasters in a way that’s best for families and taxpayers.  And it lets lawmakers continue the important work of removing government barriers to private-sector job growth,” Boehner said in a statement following the approval of the measure.  “The Democratic-led Senate should pass it without delay.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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