Stop-gap budget mooted to avoid US government shut down

House of Representatives committee chairman Hal Rogers introduces temporary funding bill to avoid shut down of US government services

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 September, 2013, 10:33am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 September, 2013, 10:50am


A key US lawmaker introduced a stop-gap funding bill on Wednesday to prevent an October 1 government shut down, after acknowledging there is insufficient time to pass a US budget for the forthcoming fiscal year.

House Appropriations Committee chairman, Republican Hal Rogers, unveiled a temporary measure that would continue funding for all federal agencies, programmes and services after the current fiscal year ends September 30 – but only until December 15.

The so-called “continuing resolution” would fund discretionary spending – which excludes some military costs and entitlement programme payments like Social Security – at the annual rate of US$986.3 billion.

That figure will almost certainly be contested by Democrats, who insist House Speaker John Boehner is seeking to make automatic spending cuts – also known as sequestration – enacted earlier this year permanent by not extending funding at pre-sequester levels.

House Republican leader Eric Cantor said a vote on the measure is expected this week.

Congress has bickered for months over spending levels, with Republicans calling for greater budget austerity, and has been unable to agree on a full federal budget for the next fiscal year.

“This is not the preferred way of doing the nation’s financial work,” Rogers conceded in a statement.

“However, given the late date, a continuing resolution is necessary to stop a government-wide shut down that would halt critical government programmes and services, destabilise our economy, and put the safety and well-being of our citizens at risk.”

The measure would not cancel the deeply controversial sequester that went into effect in March, but gives a degree of flexibility to certain programmes, including border police.

In the absence of a full budget bill, the stop-gap measure will need to be passed by the Republican-led House of Representatives and the Democrat-led Senate by September 30.

If no budget is passed, government doors would be shut and non-essential services would grind to a halt – a potential disaster both parties say they are keen to avoid.

Memories are still fresh in Washington about Christmas 1995, when failed negotiations between President Bill Clinton and the Republican majority in Congress led to a three-week shut down.