Right now, we are living in the world of a “Continuing Resolution” (CR). This means Congress did not pass an appropriations bill for FY2015 by Oct 1, 2014. This isn’t surprising. In fact, CR’s are frequently employed as a means to keep the government running. Literally, Congress has resolved to continue funding the government according to the statues of the previous fiscal year’s appropriations. Therefore, the first few months of FY15 are to be funded at the exact same levels (with minor modifications) as they were in FY14. AKA: federal operations will continue at the current spending levels.
If the fiscal year were to end on Sept 30 and neither an appropriations bill nor a CR are passed, then beginning on Oct 1, the government would shut down. In fact, this is exactly what happened in 2013. It was not a pretty thing. There have been 18 shutdowns since modern budgeting process was enacted in the 1970’s. A list of their dates, duration, and context may be browsed here.
A CR funding measure is not permanent. The current measure states that the budget must be appropriated by Dec 11, 2014 at which point appropriations must be determined or the government faces shut down once again. Unless, of course, Congress passes yet an additional CR. This can happen multiple times throughout a fiscal year. For instance, for FY2011, 7 CR’s were passed by Congress that delayed the final appropriations bill until April 9, 2011 (2). In effect, 52% of the fiscal year was over by the time a budget was enacted.
These days CR’s tend to be normal. Only 3 of the previous 28 years have been without a CR [or government shutdown]: 1989, 1995, 1997. The following graph from the Government Accountability Office (GOA) shows the duration and number of CR’s per fiscal year through 1999 (3).
Are CR’s a good thing? A bad thing? Many things are better than a government shutdown, but a full case study was published by the GOA that determined the effects of budget uncertainty on agency operations. The full study may be read here.
Stay tuned and we’ll find out what happens to FY15 as Dec 11, 2014 approaches.
Author: Angela N. Pierce,
Society for Neuroscience Early Career Policy Fellow