Nuclear and weapons programs managed by the U.S. departments of Defense, State and Energy potentially could be impacted and possibly stalled in the near future by Congress’ inability to pass budget legislation for the new fiscal year that starts on Oct. 1.
The House and Senate have not yet agreed on any of the 12 budget-setting appropriations bills for fiscal 2014, and on Friday they were at odds over a short-term “continuing resolution.” Such a stop-gap budget bill would simply fund the federal government until lawmakers could agree on legislation to fund the federal agencies for the full fiscal year. If lawmakers cannot agree on a continuing resolution by Oct. 1, the federal government could shut down.
Even if congressional Democrats and Republicans agree on a continuing resolution — as a significant number of political observers expect — such a scenario likely would not be good news for proponents of nuclear and weapons programs run by the departments of Defense, State and Energy.
That is because under such resolutions, the government generally cannot start new contracts or projects, and it is constrained to working within the previous year’s level of funding. In March, the decade-long, $500 billion “sequestration” budget cuts kicked in at the Pentagon, lowering its fiscal 2013 spending levels below what it initially projected for the year.
If the government shuts down, the situation would be even trickier, because some employees at the federal agencies would not be able to work.
Mid-day Friday, the Republican-led House by a margin of 230-189 passed a stop-gap continuing resolution that would fund the federal government at current fiscal 2013 levels starting on Oct. 1, when fiscal 2014 begins, and lasting until Dec. 15.
However, Democrats in control of the Senate made clear they would not pass that House resolution, and instead would propose their own, ideologically different short-term budget bill during the final week of September.
“Today’s action by the House is a defeat for our economy, for jobs, and for our national security,” Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) said in a statement. She charged the House-passed bill would “put political ideology ahead of country,” because it contains legislative provisions including a measure to defund President Obama’s health-care reform law.
Mikulski pledged to work to pass a “clean” short-term continuing resolution — which would simply fund the government and not include legislative provisions — in the Senate during the final week of September.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), for his part, maintained that the House-passed resolution would boost the economy and implement “careful reforms for both discretionary and mandatory spending.”
“The ball is now in the Senate’s court to act on this legislation,” he said in a statement. “It is my hope they will pass this bill swiftly, to avoid a government shutdown, and to provide for critical government services and programs.”
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