The House and Senate, on the last day of the fiscal year, approved a Continuing Resolution (CR), HR 719, which will provide FY 2016 funding for federal agencies from the beginning of the fiscal year (October 1, 2015) through December 11, 2015, thus averting a partial government shutdown. The CR would, by and large, provide funding on a pro rata basis at the FY 2015 levels under the authority and conditions of the FY 2015 Appropriations Act. The President will sign the CR.
The contentious issue of funding for Planned Parenthood, which threatened to derail the CR, was not included in the bill, although it will be an issue as Congress works toward an agreement to fund federal agencies beyond December 11. The Senate approved the CR by a vote of 78 to 20, while the House approved it on a 277 to 151 vote.
Funding Level/Limitations on the Distribution of Funds. As noted above, funding for most programs during period of the CR will be at FY 2015 levels and conditions. There is a 0.21 percent (one fifth of one percent) across-the-board reduction. Because the bill brings forward the FY 2015 funding levels and terms, that includes any increases that were included for advance appropriations in the FY 2015 Appropriations Act (i.e., Veterans Administration medical accounts) and also does not take into account FY 2015 rescissions, hence the small across-the-board reduction in calculating FY 2016 CR amounts. The FY 2015 CR also had a small across-the-board reduction.
The CR funds will not be distributed for programs that may have high initial rates of operation or for funds which are fully distributed at the beginning of the fiscal year. This is because of the possibility that Congress might eliminate or reduce funding for those particular programs in a final appropriations bill.
With regard to the distribution of funds during the covered period, the CR states:
This Act shall be implemented so that only the most limited funding action of that permitted in the Act shall be taken in order to provide for continuation of projects and activities.
However, agencies will be allowed to apportion funds in a manner that would avoid furloughing employees. These provisions are common in CRs and were also included in the FY 2015 CR.
Mandatory Funding Programs. Funding for entitlement and mandatory payments which was provided for in the FY 2015 Appropriations Act as well as activities under the Food and Nutrition Act will be continued at a rate that maintains current program levels. Funding will be available to offset food price increases in the Commodity Supplemental Food Program.
Anomalies. Anomalies, provisions that differ from those in FY 2015, are relatively few and none are tribal-specific. Of significance is the inclusion of a $700 million increase for the Forest Service for wildland fire suppression. Also included is an extension of the Internet Tax Freedom Act (which prevents states and local governments from taxing internet access) through the period of the CR. Attached is a section-by-section summary of the CR which includes a description of the anomalies.
What’s Next. Congress will now need to reach an agreement on funding for the remainder of FY 2016. With the resignation of House Speaker Boehner (R-OH) effective October 30, the House will move forward with negotiations with a new and even more conservative leadership – those leadership elections are scheduled for October 8. This week Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) has voiced support for reaching a two-year (FYs 2016-2017) budget agreement which would include increased spending caps – something which has been the President’s and congressional Democrats’ position all year. While House and Senate Appropriations Chairs have said they want an omnibus appropriations bill which reflects their Committees work on FY 2016 funding levels, it remains to be seen whether that will happen or whether Congress will enact another CR with flat funding levels.
Among the many things at stake are hoped-for increases in the IHS and Indian Affairs budgets which have been recommended by the Administration and/or the House and Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittees (for example: full and mandatory funding for Contract Support Costs; as well as increases for IHS Purchased/Referred Care; BIE tribal schools Tribal Grant Support Costs; BIE school construction; and in the House Labor-HHS-Education bill, a number of tribal-specific increases). A year-long FY 2016 CR would thwart any of these proposals.
Because the CR funds programs on a pro rata basis at FY 2015 levels, we list for your convenience our General Memoranda (GM) on selected federal agencies’ final FY 2015 appropriations:
Indian Health Service GM 14-099 of December 17, 2014
Indian Affairs (BIA/BIE) GM 15-003 of January 9, 2015
Labor-HHS-Education and Related Agencies GM 15-008 of January 13, 2015
Agriculture Department GM 15-009 of January 23, 2015
Justice Department GM 15-013 of January 30, 2015
We expect the Office of Management and Budget to issue guidance to federal agencies in carrying out the Continuing Resolution. Please let us know if we may provide additional information regarding the FY 2016 Continuing Resolution or other appropriations matters.