In the early morning of Oct. 1, President Trump signed into law a temporary funding measure that will keep the federal government running through Dec. 11. The Continuing Appropriations Act for 2021 (Pub. L. 116-159) gives appropriators and congressional leaders just over 5 weeks after the election to reach agreement on more than $1 trillion in federal funding spread throughout 12 full-year spending bills.
The Act came together after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) negotiated a compromise over trade relief for farmers requested by the White House, which Democrats originally opposed. In exchange, Democrats secured about $8 billion in pandemic-related nutrition assistance for families and schoolchildren, including a food program that provides assistance to families with children who would have received free or reduced-price school lunches at school.
This stopgap funding measure, H.R. 8337, averted a government shutdown that would have occurred if the FY 2021 appropriations bills had not been enacted when the federal government’s fiscal year ended on Oct. 1 and keeps agencies running at the FY 2020 funding levels for just over five weeks past the presidential election. The Act also allows spending at higher amounts than FY 2020 levels for other areas, including other supplemental food programs, small business loans, housing programs for the elderly and veterans, and disaster relief loans. It passed easily in both houses – by a vote of 84-10 in the Senate, just hours before government funding would have run out, and by a vote of 359-57 in the House. However, the Act is only a temporary fix and a lot of hard work remains to be done.
The 116th Congress will resume budget negotiations after the 2020 election in November, although reaching agreement on a slate of appropriations bills could be a challenge for lawmakers in the aftermath of the bitter electoral battles around the country. The House has already passed 10 of the 12 annual appropriations bills, but primarily without Republican support. The Senate has not yet approved any appropriations bills for FY 2021.
Continuing resolutions have become the norm in Congress in recent years, with Congress regularly failing to pass a full budget in the regular legislative process by the fiscal year deadline on Sept. 30. For fiscal years 1998 through 2021, 120 CRs have been enacted.