Congress is facing a Dec. 11 deadline for enacting an omnibus appropriations package that will fund the federal government through fiscal year 2016.
Members passed a continuing resolution this fall when none of the 12 separate appropriations bills had been enacted into law by Oct. 1, the start of the fiscal year. The continuing resolution, P.L. 114-53 (H.R. 719), extended funding at fiscal year 2015 levels with a small across-the-board reduction to maintain the spending cap put in place by the Budget Control Act of 2013. Following enactment of the continuing resolution, Congress and the White House reached a budget agreement to raise the discretionary spending levels by $80 million for fiscal year 2016.
Among the issues facing negotiators as they try to craft a package that will pass both the House and Senate is pressure to attach controversial riders to the legislation, including the defunding of Planned Parenthood over the donation of fetuses from abortions. A new issue arising out of the Nov. 16 terrorist attacks in Paris is a push by some members to include provisions preventing the United States from allowing Syrian refugees to enter the country until certain new restrictions are met. These provisions were included in H.R. 4038, a stand-alone bill passed by the House Nov. 19 that President Obama has threatened to veto. The president announced in September that the United States would be accepting 10,000 refugees from Syria over the next year.
Another issue is whether there will be a proposal for additional funding for security in this country in light of the Paris attacks.
Enactment of the omnibus appropriations bill to avoid a government shutdown is the first major challenge for House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), who assumed his position Oct. 29 after former Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) resigned amid disagreement among the Republican members of the House and a potential vote of no confidence being brought by conservative members.
The ABA is continuing its push for increased funding in fiscal year 2016 for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), which has a current appropriation of $375 million. Earlier this year, the ABA asked Congress to provide $452 million for LSC, the amount requested by the president and approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee. The House Appropriations Committee approved $300 million for the program.