The Advocate: October 2020

 Permanent link   All Posts

The Advocate: October 2020

October means….the start of the federal fiscal year. As hard as it may be to believe in 2020, Congress will have to divert its attention from the campaign cycle, the push to confirm a SCOTUS nominee, and the federal COVID response to focus on annual appropriations. Similarly to other years, Congress must adopt either an extension or final funding bill. Moreover, they have to do so ahead of October 1 if they want to avoid a federal shutdown.
 
As a reminder, if the federal appropriations process worked as we learned about in civics class, each chamber of Congress—House and Senate alike—would each independently adopt a budget resolution, allocate the overall dollar amount across 12 independent appropriations bills (the ‘slices’ of the funding pie), work via its respective appropriations subcommittees to determine program-specific funding levels for any and all programs within each slice of the pie, pass those 12 individual bills, reconcile differences between the House and Senate version of each of those 12 bills, and then adopt the compromise for each of those bills. That won’t be happening in 2020, and in fact, hasn’t happened in more than two decades. The last time Congress completed its funding work on time and in normal order was in the mid 1990s. 
 
When Congress can’t/won’t complete its funding work by October 1, there are two options: a federal shutdown or a continuing resolution (CR). A CR is the funding mechanism that buys Congress more time to complete its funding work. In its pure form, a CR freezes government funding at the previous year’s level, but allows government to keep running. Therefore, a CR essentially allows Congress to kick the can down the road to buy more time to finish its funding work. CRs are common place at this point, and in fact, the more common debate when it comes to annual appropriations is less ‘Will there be a shutdown or a CR?’ and more ‘How long will the CR last and will there be policy riders?’
 
Which brings us to 2020. In a presidential election year, especially one as partisan and political as this one, with a pandemic and economic downturn to boot, a CR was all but a forgone conclusion. So where do we stand with funding? 
 
In mid-September, House Democrats released a CR proposal that would level fund the federal government through December 11. The bill lacked the support of both Republicans and the administration, as well as exemptions requested by the White House. This attachment provides a section-by-section description of that bill, which makes no changes to the FY20 education funding levels. 
 
Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and Speaker Pelosi had agreed to a ‘clean CR’, absent any contentious policy decisions. The exclusion of the White House exemptions and the Senate Republican-requested farm subsidies was explained by House Democrats as sticking to the idea of a clean CR and balanced by the exclusion of the Democrat priority of additional funding/authorization for school lunches at closed schools. While the exclusion of those items initially derailed an intended vote, the bill was revised to include those provisions and the House passed the CR, leaving it up to the Senate to vote to keep the federal government funded to and through December 11. Critical to an AASA priority, the CR does include nearly $8 billion for two nutrition provisions that are essential to feeding kids and families during the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, the bill expands Pandemic EBT and extends it through the end of the current school year, and gives the USDA the authority and funding to extend waivers that give schools and community organizations much-needed flexibility for how they serve meals during the pandemic. This legislation removes the last roadblock to USDA extending these waivers through the end of the current school year.
 
The Senate is expected to pass the bill on September 30 (this update was written ahead of September 30), setting us up for a post-election, lame duck Congressional To Do list that includes another round of FY21 negotiations. 

Leave a comment
Name *
Email *
Homepage
Comment