Congress Passes Short-Term Spending Cut Bill to Avert Government Shutdown

by Rebecca Farley on March 4, 2011

With a March 4 deadline looming, Congress this week enacted a short-term budget resolution to continue funding government operations for two more weeks, through March 18. The short-term continuing resolution (CR) comes on the heels of a budget impasse that threatened to shut down the government when the current resolution, which maintains funding at 2010 levels, expires on March 4. The new CR makes $4 billion of cuts to federal spending, most of them to noncontroversial programs slated for elimination under President Obama’s budget request.

An alternative CR passed by the House last week would reduce spending by nearly $60 billion from 2010 levels. This House-passed CR faces an uncertain fate in the Senate, where the Democratic majority has steadfastly opposed spending reductions on such a large scale. With the enactment of the two-week CR, the House and Senate now have two more weeks to reach an agreement on a budget bill that will continue funding the government for the remainder of the fiscal year, through Sept. 30. President Obama has called on congressional leaders from both chambers to meet with him for direct negotiations on the budget. As of Thursday morning, House Republican leaders appeared reluctant to meet for direct negotiations, instead calling on the Senate to enact the House-passed CR or produce its own plan.

Once an agreement on the 2011 budget is reached, Congress will have to turn almost immediately to the 2012 budget. President Obama released his 2012 budget proposals in mid-February. However, his 2012 proposals assume a baseline of spending at 2010 levels – meaning that any cuts below 2010 levels that Congress makes to the 2011 budget will reduce the baseline for 2012. As a result, if Congress passes significant cuts in the 2011 CR, it would begin 2012 negotiations at a starting point even lower than that proposed in the President’s budget. There is still time to speak up for behavioral health funding in the budget – click here to take action and contact your legislators today!

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