Fiscal 2015 begins with uncertainty

By: Gina Luke, assistant director, Governmental Relations Division

Just before departing for the campaign trail last month, Congress passed a stopgap measure to keep the federal government running through Dec. 11. This means that federal agencies may continue spending money on existing programs, but are prohibited from starting new programs.

President Obama signed the measure into law on Sept. 19 (H.J. Res 124, Public Law 113-164), funding all federal agencies at fiscal 2014 enacted levels, including a small across-the-board cut, to stay under the current annual spending cap of $1.012 trillion. Had the measure not reached the president’s desk, the federal government would have shut down just like it did last October.

AVMA’s top appropriations priorities are contained in the bill that funds the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The House funding bill (H.R. 4800) was pulled from the House floor in June and never returned, while the Senate version (S. 2389) was wrapped into a three-bill “minibus” (H.R. 4660), which is a small combination of spending bills covering different areas of federal spending. Unfortunately, the minibus stalled when some lawmakers balked at restrictions on amendments.

Congress failed to send the president a single one of its 12 individual fiscal 2015 bills. However, the House passed seven spending bills (Commerce-Justice-Science; Defense; Energy-Water; Financial Services; Legislative Branch; Military Construction-VA; Transportation-HUD), while the U.S. Senate failed to pass even one.

When lawmakers return to Washington following the November elections, they will have very little time to complete the task at hand. The likeliest scenarios are: 1) lawmakers pass a yearlong continuing resolution to continue funding the government at current levels; 2) they pass two or more minibuses; or 3) they pass an omnibus comprised of all of the spending bills in one mega package to fund the entire federal government. However, given that leadership could change within the Senate, it is hard to say with certainty what scenario may occur.

For more on AVMA’s appropriations priorities, see here.

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