President Obama signed legislation Dec. 10 that continues funding for the federal government through April 28, 2017, preventing a government shutdown but leaving major decisions about fiscal year 2017 funding for the next Congress.
P.L. 114-254 (H.R. 2028), the Further Continuing and Security Assistance Appropriations Act for 2017, maintains funding at fiscal year 2016 levels for most of the federal government while providing an additional $5.1 billion in counterterrorism funds and $4 billion in emergency funds to address damages caused by recent natural disasters. The bill also includes $170 million to help the city of Flint, Michigan, correct problems that led to contamination of the city’s public water system.
The new law maintains the current budget cap level of $1.07 trillion set by the Budget Control Act of 2011, as amended, and includes programs in 11 of the 12 appropriations bills that fund the government. The earlier continuing resolution that extended funding through Dec. 9 included full-year funding for the other appropriations bill that funds military construction, veterans affairs, and related agencies.
Following House passage of H.R. 2028 by a 326-96 vote on Dec. 8, the legislation was held up in the Senate by several senators who wanted the legislation to provide full-year rather than partial-year funding for pension and health benefits for retired coal miners. In the end, the Senate passed the bill by a 63-36 vote one hour before funding was set to expire after an agreement was reached to address the miners’ issues during appropriations discussions next year.
Besides the additional funding for counterterrorism and natural disaster funding, the measure includes appropriations on a contingency basis to deal with the increasing number of unaccompanied children who are coming across the U.S. southern border. Under the continuing resolution, Legal Services Corporation funding, an ABA priority, will continue at the current level of $385 million. Funding for the federal judiciary, another association priority, remains level at $6.8 billion.
Members expressed disappointment that Congress was once again unable to pass the 12 separate appropriations bills to fund the government through the Sept. 30, 2017, end of the current fiscal year and was forced to enact a series of continuing resolutions. Only four Congresses since 1977 have been able to avoid the need for continuing resolutions to avert a government shutdown. The last time Congress passed all of the separate appropriations bills was in 1996.