It’s become an annual ritual: Congress can’t agree on a budget, so it adopts a “continuing resolution” to keep the government funded. Here’s a guide to this mammoth spending bill.
Q: What is it?
A: It’s legislation to keep the government running. Congress is supposed to adopt a budget by agreeing to a broad outline in the spring, then adopting spending bills, each dealing with a different subject. The work is supposed to be done by Oct. 1. For decades, Congress has failed to meet that deadline. So it agrees to continue funding for the government in a “continuing resolution.”
Q: How long does it keep the government funded?
A: It can provide money for a day, a week or for the rest of the year.
Q: Why don’t officials like continuing resolutions?
A: Individual spending bills come from subcommittees and committees where lawmakers hear testimony and are familiar with the agencies. They know where money can be best spent and saved. A continuing resolution is usually a general approach, and its temporary nature makes it hard for agencies to plan.
Q: What if neither the spending bills nor the stopgap measure passes before funding runs out?
A: Much of the government shuts down. This year, that will occur if a new stopgap measure is not adopted by March 27.
Q: Are any government functions excepted?
A: Yes, government activities that involve “the safety of human life or the protection of property,” such as national security, continue. In addition, entitlement benefits, such as Social Security and much of Medicare, are not included, nor is interest on the debt.
Q: Why is Congress considering a continuing resolution now?