On Tuesday, September 6, Congress returned from summer recess. Their top priority is to pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) to avoid a (partial) government shutdown. The CR will keep government operating at current spending levels, except for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), which will see an increase due to the two year funding plan. How long the CR will keep the government operating is still being negotiated. The new fiscal year begins on the 1st of October, yet Congress has not completed work on any of the 12 Appropriations (spending) bills for FY 2017. Legislators will also be working on the final version of the FY 2017 Defense Authorization bill (H.R. 4909/S. 2943). It was “strike three!” for appropriations legislation last week as the Senate, for a third time, failed to pass the Defense Department (DoD) appropriations legislation (H.R. 5293). The Senate, after returning from its summer recess, had procedural votes on two spending bills. Senate Democrats blocked movement on the defense appropriations bill, (55-43), and the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs (MilCon/VA) bill (H.R. 4974) that included Zika funding, but stripped out an Agent Orange/ Blue Water Navy provision (52-46). Both needed 60 votes to proceed. Democrats say they’re blocking the defense spending bill so Republicans cannot separate it from other spending measures, while Republicans accuse Democrats of playing politics with military funding. As predicted, Congress will now prepare to pass a stopgap funding measure this month known as a Continuing Resolution (CR) to keep the government funded, beginning October 1, 2016—the start of the new fiscal year. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced the Senate will try to pass a CR that keeps the government open until December 9, 2016. After enacting a CR, Congress will work on merging the 12 regular appropriations (spending) bills into one larger “omnibus” spending bill that can pass each chamber to then be signed into law by the President. For more information contact Sandra at the Veterans Service Office at 602 Strong Ave on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10am to 3pm, or call 365-3612.
Sandra G. Van Zant
Veterans County Service Officer