Appropriations work stalls as Congress heads out of Washington

By: Gina Luke, assistant director, Governmental Relations Division

The federal fiscal year ends Sept. 30, but sadly, Congress has not sent even one of its 12 annual spending bills—which fund programs related to food safety, agricultural and biomedical research, and human and animal disease surveillance—to the president. Instead of completing its work, Congress has opted for a five-week recess and will not return to D.C. until after Labor Day week.

While the Senate has not passed any of its 12 spending bills, the House has completed work on seven of theirs. Unfortunately, the House Agriculture spending bill (H.R. 4800), which funds many programs related to animal health and welfare, was pulled from the floor in June and has not been resurrected. The Senate version (H.R. 4660), which was wrapped into a three-bill package, also stalled after lawmakers could not agree on amendments.

Similarly, neither the House nor Senate Appropriations Committees were able to advance the Labor, Health and Human Services’ spending bill, which includes funding for biomedical research within the National Institutes of Health. While both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees on Homeland Security provided $300 million for construction of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, which is under construction in Kansas, and for the Plum Island Animal Disease Center in New York, the bills have not been brought to the floor for a vote in either chamber.

When Congress returns to work on Sept. 8, there are just a dozen legislative days scheduled before the beginning of the next fiscal year on Oct. 1. To avoid a government shutdown, Congress will need to pass a continuing resolution, which funds the government at current levels, until it can work out final funding decisions for the next fiscal year. It is likely that the continuing resolution will fund the government until mid-December, pushing any concerns over a shutdown beyond the mid-term elections. At that point, the lame-duck Congress will have to decide whether to defer a long-term continuing resolution until next year or assemble an omnibus package of all fiscal 2015 spending bills.

The AVMA will continue to push for the association’s appropriations priorities to be part of the overall bills that get sent to the president.

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