Nuclear, Weapons Programs Could Take Hit in Congressional Budget Battle

Global Security Newswire Staff
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Global Security Newswire Staff
Sept. 20, 2013, 11:02 a.m.

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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