Is There a Federal Budget for 2013? Detailed Updates

Harry Reid creat. comm

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid scheduled votes on a 2013 spending bill for this week

Photo licensed under Creative Commons


No. There is no federal budget for fiscal 2013, which began on Oct. 1, 2012.

What's Going On?

Last week I explained that the federal government is operating on a temporary spending bill called a continuing resolution instead of a real budget for fiscal 2013. That continuing resolution expires on March 27 – just a week from today. If lawmakers don't pass new legislation, the federal government will shut down on March 28. An extra complication in the mix: Congress will be on Easter recess next week, so they either need to complete work on a 2013 budget before their recess; stay in Washington to finish the job; or let the government shut down.

It looks like lawmakers prefer the first option. Here's what's happening:

Budget Votes In the House

Back on March 6, the House passed a new continuing resolution that would fund the government through the end of fiscal 2013, abiding by the spending caps established in the Budget Control Act of 2011 plus further reductions that resulted from the across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration. This House bill provided detailed appropriations for the Department of Defense, Military Construction, and Veterans Affairs, but all other areas of government would be funded on autopilot –  essentially a continuation of funding levels from 2012, without bothering to cut ineffective programs or add funding for successful or underfunded initiatives. (Last week I explained why funding on autopilot is a major problem.)

Budget Votes in the Senate

The Senate wrote its own version of this funding bill, abiding by the same total spending levels as the House. The Senate took an extra step and added detailed appropriations for several additional areas of government, incluing the Departments of Justice, Commerce, Agriculture, Homeland Security, and the Food and Drug Administration. Yet the Senate bill would still leave key areas of the federal government to be funded on autopilot, including the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) has proposed an amendment to increase education funding, but it's unlikely to pass.

What's Next

The Senate is planning to vote on its version of the bill on Thursday morning. It's expected to pass, and then it will have to go back to the House for final approval. Check back here for detailed updates.

UPDATE Thursday March 21, 10:32am: The Senate passed its version of the funding bill. Next the legislation will go to the House for final approval.

UPDATE Friday March 22, 10:02am: The House passed the Senate version of the funding bill. It now heads to President Obama's desk to be signed into law. This will avert a government shutdown next week and fund the federal government through Sept. 30, the end of the government's fiscal year.

What's especially confusing in all of this is that you've likely heard news in recent days about the release of the Paul Ryan budget, plus budgets put out by the Senate Budget Committee and the Congressional Progressive Caucus. (See our detailed analysis, plus the top five things to know.) Those budgets are proposals for fiscal year 2014 – next year. In other words, Congress has begun the 2014 budget process even though the fiscal 2013 budget is still up in the air.