Paul Singer, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON (USA Today) — Members of Congress return from summer recess facing a Sept. 30 deadline to fund the federal government, a deadline they are certain to miss, as they have each of the past 18 years. The question is: Will the government shut down Oct. 1, or can lawmakers agree to a temporary spending plan while they argue about a longer-term solution?
The “normal” congressional budget process involves the House and Senate passing 12 separate spending bills for various agencies and programs around the government, each of which must be signed by the president by the time federal spending authority expires Sept. 30. But according to the Congressional Research Service, Congress has failed to fund all or most federal agencies by the Sept. 30 deadline every year since 1997. Instead, lawmakers pass a series of temporary funding measures — called “continuing resolutions” — and then wrap most of the funding into a single “omnibus” spending package.
This year, the House has passed a handful of spending bills that President Obama has threatened to veto for reasons ranging from funding cuts to disputes over policy mandates; the Senate has passed none. Obama said Saturday that a government shutdown “would be wildly irresponsible” and urged Congress to pass a spending bill that would move beyond the government-wide spending caps called “sequester” that have constrained every federal agency’s budget.
“If they pass a budget with shortsighted sequester cuts that harm our military and our economy, I’ll veto it,” Obama said. “If they make smart investments in our military readiness, our infrastructure, our schools, public health and research, I’ll sign that budget — and they know that.”