Tuesday, September 28, 2010

No DHS Budget until after the Election

It doesn’t look like Congress will be getting around to passing any budget bills before the really stop work for electioneering; we’ll just have to live with the drama of Continuing Resolutions. There is an article on GovExec.com today about the Senate starting debate on the Continuing Resolution (CR) that will allow the government to continue functioning passed September 30th without a formal budget.

Don’t look for a piece of legislation called the ‘Continuing Resolution’, that would be too simple and direct. This year Sen. Reid (according to GovExec.com) has selected the State Department appropriations bill (S 3676) as the ‘vehicle’ for the CR. Since this bill has already passed in Committee there will be an “amendment in the nature of a substitute” that will completely change the wording and meaning of the current bill.

All sorts of silly games are possible with this legislation. A clean bill will be just a couple of paragraphs long providing funding for all Federal Government Agencies until a specific date listed in the bill. Most lawyers that I’ve talked with feel that that would also give CFATS (set to expire October 4, 2010) an effective extension until the date provided for the continuation of funding.

The bill could also get all cluttered up with just about any kind of special provision, depending on how much dealing Reid has to do to get this thing passed. If they can’t get it passed by Thursday (the date the electioneering apparently is scheduled to begin in earnest with Senators back in their districts for the duration) then Reid will have to hold the Senate in session until something can be passed. And every day he keeps the Senators in Washington will make it that much easier for the Republicans to take control of the Senate along with the House in November.

Constitutional Issues

Remember back in August when Pelosi had to call the House back to vote on their version of a spending bill that the Senate had to come back in turn to vote on the House bill even though they had already passed their version? There were concerns because, according to the Constitution, spending bills must originate in the House. It seems that Madame Pelosi is now more concerned about the House Democrats getting stuck holding the bag for passing an unpopular CR that the Senate can’t even get to a vote because they lack 60 votes for cloture than with following Constitutional procedures.

And it is silly because the House has passed two spending bills, HR 5822 (Military and Veterans) and HR 5850 (Transportation HUD), that could have been used as the vehicle for the CR. The current language in those bills could have been added to one of the other spending bills after the election. Well, maybe a CR doesn’t really count as a spending bill.

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