• August Recess Special “Back To School” Series Continues
  • August 28, 2015
  • Law Firm: McDonald Hopkins LLC - Cleveland Office
  • Since we are in the midst of the August recess - the time when both chambers are out of session - we thought it might be a good time to take the opportunity to explain a little bit more about some of the more complex processes on the Hill. Think of it as a “back to school” primer on how Washington works. This week, we explain what a “continuing resolution” is and when it’s necessary.

    Congress holds the so-called “power of the purse” in our government, which means they are responsible for passing legislation to fund the government by October 1 (the fiscal year ends on September 30).

    The first step in this process is the passage of a budget resolution. The one key purpose behind the budget resolution is to set the total level of discretionary funding - known as the “302a allocation” - for the next fiscal year. Budget resolutions look at federal spending in 10-year windows, but resolutions are not binding beyond the approaching fiscal year.

    Once the 302a allocation is set, the Appropriations Committees in both chambers are tasked with passing 12 separate appropriations bills. In theory, under what is known as “regular order,” both chambers would pass all 12 appropriations bills, reconcile any differences and send all 12 to the president for his signature before October 1. In practice, this rarely happens anymore in Washington.

    In the event that they are unable to meet the October 1 deadline, Congress can pass legislation to keep federal operations going at the current spending levels. That legislation is called a Continuing Resolution (CR).

    A CR is a temporary extension, which is passed to give Congress time to finish the appropriations process. If Congress fails to finish the appropriations process by October 1 and fail to pass a CR the government would shut down - like it did for 16 days in 2013.