Continuing resolution of 2007

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A continuing resolution (CR) is a measure enacted by Congress to provide budget authority for federal agencies and programs until regular appropriations acts are enacted.[1] In early 2007, the newly-elected, Democratic-controlled House and Senate were forced to address agency budgets for FY 2007 through a CR. Budgets for the various executive branch agencies were set to be approved before October 1, 2006 (the first day of FY 2007), but the Republican-controlled House and Senate passed only two of the necessary eleven spending bills. A CR was passed on December 8, 2006 to continue to fund the government at FY 2006 levels through February 15, 2007. On January 31, 2007, the House passed a $463 billion CR to fund each of the nine agencies through the remainder of FY 2007. The resolution stripped the earmarks originally inserted into House versions of the bill during the 109th Congress. The funds, however, were not subtracted from the bill, but rather allotted to the appropriate executive agencies, who could then determine how the funds would be spent.[2][3]

Republican Congress fails to pass spending bills

During the 109th Congress, the House passed appropriations bills for all but three federal government departments (labor, education, and health and human services). Differences between the House and Senate, however, caused only two budgets to be passed by both chambers and signed by President Bush (Defense and Homeland Security).[4][5] The Senate Committee on Appropriations had approved all necessary spending bills faster than any such committee since 1988. After learning that the bills would not be completed during the 109th Congress, a spokesperson for committee Chair Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) stated, “Senator Cochran thinks it’s completely irresponsible that the responsibilities of this Congress have been abdicated for the year.”[6]

Continuing resolutions passed

On September 29, 2006, the House passed a CR to last through November 18 by a vote of 348-65. The Senate approved the measure the following day by unanimous consent. Under the terms of the resolution, funding for federal agencies would be either frozen or cut. In addition, it prohibited agencies from initiating or resuming programs not funded in FY 2005 or awarding new grants during the CR period.[7][8] In the CR, government agencies were funded at the same level as the previous budget cycle, FY 2006, unless the Senate or House had voted for a lower level in its incomplete bills. In these cases, the lower level applied.[9][10][11] On December 8, 2006, the House and Senate approved another CR, similar to the previous one, to fund federal agencies through February 15, 2007. President Bush signed the measure the following day.[12]

Democrats address FY2007 spending

Earmark moratorium

In December 2006, it became clear that the newly-elected Democratic-controlled Congress would need to address FY 2007 budgets in the first few weeks of the 110th Congress. Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) and Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.), incoming chairs of the Senate and House appropriations committees, said that Democrats would place a moratorium on earmarks “until a reformed process is put in place.” Obey stated, “Republicans have spent years handing out billions upon billions of dollars in tax cuts to millionaires while shortchanging our national priorities...It is going to take us years to get back on track.” Specifically, this would entail passing a continuing resolution without any earmarks to continue funding the federal government through the remainder of FY 2007 (through Sept. 30). President Bush called the moratorium “a good start” towards achieving fiscal discipline in Congress.[13]

House passage

On January 31, 2007, the House passed a $463 billion continuing resolution to keep the federal government operating for the remainder of FY 2007 at FY 2006 spending levels (with some exceptions). It was approved by a 286-140 vote. House Appropriations Committee Chair David Obey (D-Wis.) admitted the resolution had problems, stating “I don't expect people to love this proposal, I don't love this proposal, and we probably have made some wrong choices...At least we have made them in order to bring last year's issues to a conclusion so we can turn the page and deal with next year's priorities.” The White House indicated that President Bush would sign the measure.[14]

<USvoteinfo year="2007" chamber="house" rollcall="72" />

Earmark controversy

While the resolution provided the maximum amount of spending possible under a budget cap set by President Bush in 2006, it effectively stripped earmarks which had been inserted into House spending bills in 2006 (which were not passed by the Senate). The funds which would have gone towards earmarks were instead allotted to federal agencies, who would then have the power to determine how the funds would be spent.[15]

Some Republicans, however, claimed that the resolution did, in fact, include about $500 million worth of earmarks, including almost $50 million for rainforests in Iowa. Democrats contended, however, that these projects were either supported by Republicans or were continuations of projects that had already been allotted millions of dollars in federal funds in the past.[16] House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) disagreed, stating:

“I have consistently stated that Republicans are eager to work with Democrats for the good of the country we were all elected to serve, but that we will hold them accountable for their promises at the same time. Democrats promised this massive spending bill would be earmark-free, but then gave us a bill that includes hundreds of millions of dollars worth of funding for earmarked pork projects. And it is clear that the best interests of the American people – transparency and accountability – were not a priority for Democrats when they crafted this massive spending bill…Republicans offered a common sense proposal to slash hundreds of millions of dollars from earmarks the Democrats overlooked and use those funds to pay for critically-needed housing for military families, to restore funding for the fight against methamphetamine abuse, and to reduce the federal budget deficit. It’s unfortunate Democrats decided to break their pledge on earmarks at the expense of these higher priorities. The majority’s decision is out of step with the priorities of the American people.”[17]

Certain areas see funding increase

While the resolution largely called for spending at FY 2006 levels, certain items would see a funding increase. The National Institutes of Health would receive a $620 million, or 2%, budget increase. The FBI would get a modest $200 million increase in its $6 billion budget. In addition, the maximum Pell Grant for lower-income college students would increase by $260 to $4,310. Efforts to combat AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis overseas would see a $1.3 billion increase - to $4.5 billion.[18] Amtrak's federal subsidy would remain steady at $1.3 billion, despite $900 million proposed by Bush or the $1.1 billion passed by the House in 2006.[19]

Opposition regarding spending levels

Opponents included Rep. Dave Weldon (R-Fla.), who complained that funding for NASA would be significantly below the levels requested by President Bush and initially approved by the House in 2006. Under the resolution, the 2007 NASA budget would be $16.2 billion, about the same as its 2006 budget. Weldon said this would likely delay a planned 2014 manned spaceship mission.[20] Rep. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) argued that spending for farm disaster aid was inadequate after an effort to increase it by $3.3 billion failed.[21]

Republicans argue debate process was unfair

Many Republicans also argued that the process by which the resolution was considered was unfair. Only one hour of debate time was allowed, and no amendments were permitted to be introduced or considered.[22]

Senate considers continuing resolution

On February 8, 2007, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) moved to consider the CR the following week with limited debate.[23] This angered Republicans, who felt as though they deserved the right to add amendments to the bill before a vote was taken. In addition, many Republicans expressed disagreement with the level of funding for the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) program in the House-passed resolution. $3.1 billion which had previously been approved was cut, leaving only $2.5 billion for the program.[24] On February 7, twenty-five Republicans, along with Democratic Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), drafted a letter to Senate leaders arguing that the BRAC cut would obstruct troop movements and hurt local economies in military communities. Baucus was particularly concerned that the lost BRAC funds would have benefitted a transition program for the Montana National Guard. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) added that environmental cleanup of former military base sites would also be jeopardized by the BRAC cuts. She stated “Democrats have once again robbed from military funds and spread it to other areas.” House Appropriations Committee Chair Dave Obey (D-Wis.) said the $3 billion for BRAC would be added later in the year to an Iraq War spending bill.[25]

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), the Senate's sole physician, strongly criticized the measure for failing to fund a $30 million program he authored to test newborns for the AIDS virus. A spokesman for Appropriations Committee Chair Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) said the funds were not appropriated because no states had yet met the criteria to be eligible to receive them.[26]

Senate votes to limit debate

On February 13, 2007, the Senate voted on a motion to invoke cloture on the CR. The motion was approved, 71-26, clearing the CR for a floor vote.[27]

<USvoteinfo year="2007" chamber="senate" rollcall="46" />

Senate passage

On February 14, 2007, the Senate passed a $463 billion continuing resolution to keep the federal government operating for the remainder of FY 2007 at FY 2006 spending levels (with some exceptions). It was approved by a 81-15 (4 not voting) vote.

<USvoteinfo year="2007" chamber="senate" rollcall="48" />

President Bush signs the bill

On February 15, 2007, President Bush reluctantly signed the $464 billion spending bill.[28]

House passes additional measure to fund committees

Because the 109th Congress failed to pass the necessary appropriations bills, funding for most House committees was not completed in time for the 110th Congress. This funding was not addressed in the continuing resolution, but was rather handled separately. On March 8, 2007, the House passed H.Res.202, a resolution approving funding for House standing and select committees.[29]

The funds were allocated for two years and totaled $276,509,023. Funding for each committee totaled the following:[30]

<USvoteinfo year="2007" chamber="house" rollcall="131" />

The bill provided an across-the-board 2.64% increase for inflation, an additional 2.2% increase for the first session's operating expenses, an additional 3% increase for personnel expenses, and an additional 2.4% increase for operating expenses in the second session.[32]

The measure, sponsored by Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-Calif.), chair of the House Committee on House Administration, passed 269-150.[33]

The measure also contained funding for the new House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, funding it for $3,725,467.[34]

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles

Sources

  1. U.S. Senate Glossary, U.S. Senate.
  2. Patrick OConnor, "Irritating appropriators, GOP punts spending bills to Democrats," The Hill, November 21, 2006.
  3. Paul Kane, "House Passes $463 Billion Spending Bill After Deleting Earmarks," Washington Post, February 1, 2007.
  4. Alex Kaplun, "Democrats promise yearlong spending resolution," Teaming With Wildlife, December 12, 2006.
  5. Patrick OConnor, "Irritating appropriators, GOP punts spending bills to Democrats," The Hill, November 21, 2006.
  6. Patrick OConnor, "Irritating appropriators, GOP punts spending bills to Democrats," The Hill, November 21, 2006.
  7. "Congress Passes Stark Continuing Resolution; Many Programs Will See Funding Cuts," OMB Watch, October 4, 2005.
  8. Patrick OConnor, "Irritating appropriators, GOP punts spending bills to Democrats," The Hill, November 21, 2006.
  9. Peter Cohn, "Congress averts shutdown, puts off spending bills until February," Government Executive, December 10, 2006.
  10. "Congress Passes Stark Continuing Resolution; Many Programs Will See Funding Cuts," OMB Watch, October 4, 2005.
  11. Patrick OConnor, "Irritating appropriators, GOP punts spending bills to Democrats," The Hill, November 21, 2006.
  12. Peter Cohn, "Congress averts shutdown, puts off spending bills until February," Government Executive, December 10, 2006.
  13. Matt Stearns and Rob Hotakainen, " Earmark Moratorium – Pelosi Seems Serious," The Wichita Eagle (via Angry Bear blog), December 22, 2006.
  14. Paul Kane, "House Passes $463 Billion Spending Bill After Deleting Earmarks," Washington Post, February 1, 2007.
  15. Paul Kane, "House Passes $463 Billion Spending Bill After Deleting Earmarks," Washington Post, February 1, 2007.
  16. Paul Kane, "House Passes $463 Billion Spending Bill After Deleting Earmarks," Washington Post, February 1, 2007.
  17. Press Release: Boehner Statement on Democrats’ Decision to Fund Pork-Barrel Earmarks Instead of Military Families, Anti-Drug Efforts, Deficit Reduction Office of House Minority Leader John Boehner, January 31, 2007.
  18. Paul Kane, "House Passes $463 Billion Spending Bill After Deleting Earmarks," Washington Post, February 1, 2007.
  19. "Democrats plan to cut Bush foreign aid funds," Associated Press (via MSNBC), January 30, 2007.
  20. Paul Kane, "House Passes $463 Billion Spending Bill After Deleting Earmarks," Washington Post, February 1, 2007.
  21. "Democrats plan to cut Bush foreign aid funds," Associated Press (via MSNBC), January 30, 2007.
  22. "Democrats plan to cut Bush foreign aid funds," Associated Press (via MSNBC), January 30, 2007.
  23. Elana Schor, "Senators try to recoup $3.1 billion for BRAC," The Hill, February 09, 2007.
  24. Fanny S. Chirinos and Jaime Powell, "BRAC funds trimmed $3.1B," Caller-Times, February 2, 2007.
  25. Elana Schor, "Senators try to recoup $3.1 billion for BRAC," The Hill, February 09, 2007.
  26. Andrew Taylor, "Senate Debates $463.5B Spending Bill," The Guardian, February 9, 2007.
  27. Andrew Taylor, "Senate to Move on $464B Spending Bill," The Guardian, February 14, 2007.
  28. "Bush Signs $464 Billion Spending Bill," Associated Press (via Las Vegas Sun, February 15, 2007.
  29. Robert McElroy, " Managing America: Appropriations" TheWeekInCongress, March 9, 2006.
  30. Robert McElroy, " Managing America: Appropriations" TheWeekInCongress, March 9, 2006.
  31. Robert McElroy, " Managing America: Appropriations" TheWeekInCongress, March 9, 2006.
  32. Robert McElroy, " Managing America: Appropriations" TheWeekInCongress, March 9, 2006.
  33. Robert McElroy, " Managing America: Appropriations" TheWeekInCongress, March 9, 2006.
  34. THOMAS: H.Res.202, Library of Congress.

External resources

External articles