Each year, Congress must pass 12 spending bills to fund federal agencies and programs, including those important to veterinary medicine. If lawmakers are unable to agree on the spending bills before the fiscal year ends, as was the case this week on Capitol Hill, then they look to pass a continuing resolution (CR) to avoid a break in federal funding.
With just a few hours to spare before the fiscal year ended, Congress sent a CR to President Obama to keep the government operating through Dec. 11. Federal agencies and programs will receive the same level of funding they had in fiscal 2015 minus a 0.21 percent across-the-board cut.
Lawmakers will use the next 10 weeks to negotiate a comprehensive spending package that can pass both chambers of Congress and be signed by the president. This process is difficult under normal circumstances, but has been made even more so due to the impending departure of the Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio), who announced that he is resigning at the end of October.
The AVMA is urging lawmakers to work out their differences between spending bills passed in each chamber so that an omnibus spending bill that includes new funding levels for fiscal 2016 can be passed. If lawmakers are unable to come to agreement, then they may opt to pass a year-long CR. This would be highly unpopular with federal agencies and stakeholder groups because under CRs, most agencies are forced to enter another year operating under the previous year’s spending priorities. This restricts their ability to fund new initiatives, or terminate spending for programs that are no longer priorities, or quickly shift dollars to meet emerging needs. Federal agencies operating under CRs often spend the first months of a new fiscal year conserving resources until they know whether they will receive additional monies.
In the meantime, the AVMA continues to actively work to advance its spending priorities and will keep members posted on the progress in The AVMA Advocate.