Congress averts government shutdown, setting up budget talks

By Philip Brasher

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Sept. 30, 2015 - With just hours to spare, President Obama signed a stopgap spending bill into law, averting a government shutdown and keeping agencies operating until Dec. 11. 

Fiscal 2016 starts Thursday, but Congress has been unable to agree on any of the 12 appropriations bills that fund agencies. 

Together we can feed the Bees" The continuing resolution (CR) passed by the Senate and House on Wednesday buys some time for Republican congressional leaders to reach a deal with the White House on a  government-wide bill for fiscal 2016. 

The White House wants more spending for domestic programs, while Republicans want more money for defense as well as some policy riders addressing key parts of President Obama's regulatory agenda, including the rule re-defining the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. 

The CR will maintain fiscal 2015 spending levels until December, when Congress could well be headed to another showdown. “We have to try our best (to reach a budget deal) with the three months we get with this bill,” said House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Congress should agree on a fiscal 2016 bill that raises spending levels “without delay.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., says GOP leaders hope to agree on new spending levels for fiscal 2017 as well as 2016. “We would like to settle the top line for both years so that next year we could have a regular appropriations process,” he told reporters Tuesday.

The Senate passed the continuing resolution 78-20 on Wednesday morning, and the House approved it late Thursday afternoon, 277-151, with the use of a fast-track procedure. 

Obama also signed into law an extension of grain inspection standards and livestock price reporting

Laws authorizing both the standards and price reporting system expired Wednesday. The bill (HR 2051) also reauthorizes the National Forest Foundation Act.

The new law contains provisions to ensure that grain inspections could continue during a labor dispute, averting slowdowns that occurred in 2013 in Washington state. 

The measure also expands the information included in the reports for swine and lamb transactions. 

“This bipartisan law ensures our nation's farmers, foresters, and ranchers have the tools they need for success,” said Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee. 

(Updated 10 p.m.)

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