Continuing resolution or omnibus? Decision looms for Congress as holidays approach

When Congress returns on Dec. 1, it will be pressed for time on deciding its next course on funding before the current continuing resolution expires at midnight...

By Jory Heckman
Federal News Radio

With the latest continuing resolution set to expire at midnight on Dec. 12, all eyes are on Capitol Hill’s next big decision — whether to pass another short-term continuing resolution, rush to pass a more comprehensive omnibus bill or perhaps push through a hybrid funding bill.

The question for most budget experts is what Congress will have time to do before the upcoming holiday season.

“Suppose we get through Dec. 11, but for how long will Congress extend the budget and the authority to spend? We may be going through these brinkmanship games on-and-off for a long time,” Don Kettl, professor at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy, told Federal Drive with Tom Temin .

Katie Maddocks, governmental affairs representative for the Federal Managers Association, said that whatever happens, another government shutdown seems unlikely.

“When that happened last time, too much was at stake. Our economy suffered greatly. We cannot let that happen again,” Maddocks said, on In Depth with Francis Rose. “No one in the federal workforce wants to start the holiday season with a government shutdown. If we have to take it, we’ll do the CR. We want government to keep being funded, but in the long run, this is going to catch up on this. This isn’t how we manage the federal budget.”

Appropriations leaders Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) have both advocated for passing a comprehensive omnibus bill that would incorporate the dozen appropriations bills that their committees have worked on.

Mikulski, the Senate Appropriations Committee chairwoman, has said appropriators are making steady progress towards an omnibus bill.

David Hawkings, senior editor of Roll Call, said that with time running out, Congress may push out something called a “cromnibus” bill.

“No kidding, that’s the word that they’re using — a cromnibus,” Hawkings said on In Depth. “Just like how a Cronut is half-croissant and half-donut, a cromnibus is some of the 12 bills that are some of the more politically controversial would be maintained as just a CR — no changes in policy or funding levels, just running in place from last year.”

Congress will return from its Thanksgiving recess on Dec. 1. Jessica Klement, legislative director of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, said she’s unsatisfied with the continued procrastination from Congress.

“It never ceases to amaze me that they have been back for two weeks, they’re out this week, and then they’re back for two more weeks, and still it appears that very little progress has been made on FY 2015,” Klement said in an In Depth.

Klement said that, as far as she could tell, Congress has been working hard behind the scenes can get the omnibus done.

“As best as I can tell in conversations I’ve had with folks on the Hill, appropriations staff is very, very busy, and their focus is an omnibus. And they are trying as hard as they can to get an omnibus done by Dec. 11,” Klement said. “Maybe we’ll have another short-term CR.”

Maddocks urged Congress to make the most of its brief session in December.

“I really hope they allocate a good majority of their time to the budget,” she said. “People are already scraping the bottom of the barrel to get their congressionally mandated goals missions and goals accomplished, and it’s a struggle to get it done at those levels.”


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