Averting a Sept. 30 government shutdown, President Obama has signed a stopgap measure to keep funds flowing to federal agencies through Dec. 9.
The continuing resolution (CR), which Obama signed on Sept. 29, also includes $500 million for flood relief in Louisiana and other storm-battered states plus funding, at reduced levels, for all of fiscal year 2017 for military construction and Dept. of Veterans Affairs major construction projects.
The 10-week stopgap for the other departments funds their programs at 2016 levels.
But the measure has no funds for Flint, Mich., drinking-water system repairs. House lawmakers instead inserted a Flint provision in a water-resources bill.
Final congressional action on the CR came late on Sept. 28 when the House approved it by a 342-85 vote. Earlier in the day, the Senate had cleared the measure, 72-26.
The stopgap needed to be enacted by midnight Sept. 30, when fiscal 2016 ends.
The “mil con” -VA title of the package slices Defense Dept. construction 5% from 2016’s total, to $7.7 billion. It also slashes funds for VA’s major construction projects account by 58%, to $538 million.
Steve Hall, American Council of Engineering Companies vice president for government affairs, calls the reductions in mil con and VA programs disappointing.
But Hall says, “The fact that the CR included the mil con appropriations bill is an indication that House and Senate negotiators may be able to come up with compromises on additional appropriations bills before the end of the year.”
All 11 of the remaining individual FY 2017 appropriations bills could be swept together into an omnibus spending package. Another option is a group of “minibuses”—packages containing several spending bills each.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) told reporters on Sept. 29 that funding federal agencies through fiscal 2017 is one of his priorities for the post-election session.
McConnell said he would prefer to pass “several minibuses, if we could.” He added: “I don’t like omnibuses and I don’t like CRs either. And the only other place you could go with this amount of limited time left would be several minibuses. And we’ll just have to see what we can move.”
Louisiana is expected to receive most of the CR package’s $500 million in community development flood relief and recovery grants, but it is far short of the $2.8 billion that the state’s governor, John Bel Edwards (D), had requested.
Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) said in a statement that the new aid is a “down payment” on the federal flood-recovery funding for his state.
The CR package doesn’t include funding for Flint, Mich., to replace its drinking-water infrastructure, but an amendment to the House Water Resources Development Act authorizes $170 million for Flint, subject to annual appropriations. The House passed its WRDA on Sept. 28.
The Senate-passed WRDA also has funds for Flint and other cities with troubled drinking-water systems.