With the 2009 federal fiscal year set to end Sept. 30, House and Senate negotiators have agreed on a government-wide stopgap measure that would provide enough money to keep federal agencies operating for one additional month. Lawmakers hope that the "continuing resolution," which runs through Oct. 31, will provide time for congressional appropriators to reach agreement on the spending bills for the full fiscal 2010.
Attached to the "CR," on which House and Senate conferees reached agreement Sept. 24, are parallel one-month funding and operating authority extensions for surface transportation and Federal Aviation Administration programs. Current highway-transit and aviation authorization statutes--which are separate from appropriations--also are scheduled to lapse Sept. 30.
The broad-based CR would continue funding for most agencies at their fiscal 2009 rate for an additional month, That bill next must be approved by the full House and Senate before going to the White House for President Obama's signature.
The action on the overall spending stopgap comes less than 24 hours after the House approved three-month reauthorizations for highway-transit and aviation programs. The highway-transit bill was approved by a 335-85 vote. The FAA bill was passed on a voice vote.
Jim Berard, spokesman for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, says that the continuing resolution's one-month highway-transit and aviation reauthorizations buys lawmakers some additional time to negotiate somewhat longer extensions. "We're using the CR as a backup," Berard says. "We're doing that as insurance in case the Senate doesn't act quickly enough on our free-standing [three-month] extensions" for highways and transit and for aviation.
The Senate has different views on the highway-transit extension: Committees in that chamber have approved 18-month continuations and the White House supports that 18-month approach.
The current highway and transit authorization--the 2005 Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: a Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU)--and the latest in a series of stopgap FAA bills--both expire on Sept. 30.
House transportation committee Chairman James Oberstar (D-Minn.) supported a three-month highway-transit extension--as opposed to an 18-month bill--as a way to keep pressure on Congress to produce a multi-year successor to SAFETEA-LU. Oberstar is pushing a $500-billion, six-year reauthorization measure, but there bill has only cleared subcommittee and lacks provisions specifying how it will be funded.