Congress returns to Washington Sept. 8 to face the annual challenge of coming up with a plan to fund the government in the new federal fiscal year. This year, however, a confluence of factors, including Labor Day falling later in September and a papal visit later in the month, leaves Congress with even fewer legislative days than usual to craft a continuing resolution (CR) to provide funding after Oct. 1.
Both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees approved all 12 of their respective fiscal year (FY) 2016 spending bills for the first time in six years, and the House passed six of the measures. But confronted with Democratic opposition to the spending limits currently in place, the Senate has been unable to consider any of the appropriations bills.
So far, there are no indications how long the CR might last, but some observers have speculated that it might run until mid to late November, when the Congressional Budget Office says Congress will need to raise the limit on the federal debt.
Congressional passage of a CR may be complicated by the desire for conservatives to stop federal funding for Planned Parenthood, a move that, if successful, could draw a veto.
Ultimately, the fate of the appropriations bills will depend on whether the GOP-led Congress and the White House can agree on a plan that lifts the discretionary spending caps. Democratic leaders have called for negotiations on a budget deal for months, but so far the two sides have not begun discussions.