Congress Considers Continuing Resolution to Avoid Potential Shutdown

A group of lawmakers wrote the White House last week urging against the use of a continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government for FY2020. The CR option has been floated in recent weeks due to Congress’ inability to agree on spending proposals, which has increased fears of a looming government shutdown. While some have already proposed a CR as a possible solution to appropriations battles, others fear the impact a CR will have on military readiness.

Lawmakers only have a month until the August recess and three months until the end of the fiscal year. Without a deal on spending caps, automatic budget cuts would cut defense and non-defense spending by a total of $125 million in FY2020.

The House has voted on 10 appropriations measures. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) predicted that the Senate would begin the mark up of spending bills following the July 4th holiday recess, according to reports from Roll Call.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have expressed a desire to avoid another lengthy government shutdown and automatic budget cuts.

The White House has floated the idea of a one-year CR to keep the government funding at FY2019 levels through FY2020 and a one-year increase to the debt ceiling.

However, in a July 3, 2019 letter to the White House, a group of 15 GOP lawmakers argued that a CR would make the Department of Defense (DOD) “incapable of increasing readiness, recapitalizing our force, or rationalizing funding to align with the [President’s National Defense Strategy].”

The letter notes that in nine of the last ten years, the Pentagon began the fiscal year under a CR; however, the department has never operated under a CR for a full year.

“More specifically, a yearlong CR locks in the previous year's funding, while preventing DOD from reprogramming funds and rationalizing its budget effectively. Consequently, this would force DOD to execute a budget over three years old… Military training and equipment readiness would all be significantly reduced, resulting in a less lethal fighting force. Additionally, our military depots would be prevented from hiring and retaining the highly trained workforce necessary to maintain our existing vehicles, tanks, ships, and aircraft,” the letter writes.

Once back from the August recess, Senators will have seven weeks to vote on funding measures and House Members will have six to avoid another shutdown.

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