Budget Breakdown in Senate

July 17, 2015

As budget negotiations break down in the Senate, a high stakes game of political posturing means the government could be heading towards another shutdown in October. 

“The longer we wait, the more likely we face this showdown and shutdown,” said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). 

Washington, D.C. will be a relative ghost town in August as lawmakers return to their home districts to meet with constituents. The House and Senate expect to have only 10 days to work together on the defense appropriations bill in September. With such a limited timeframe, many on Capitol Hill are beginning to see the need for a continuing resolution (CR). 

Under a CR, DoD is funded at existing levels until Congress can reach an agreement on funding for the remainder of the fiscal year. Without legal authority to spend money, nonessential DoD functions cease. 

Sen. Durbin opposes a CR, calling it “a mindless extension of the government budget from the previous year … that is not going to afford us the opportunity to do the right thing or debate important issues.”

Congress cannot come to an agreement over spending cuts imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act, also known as sequestration. 

While the House passed its defense appropriation bill in June, the Senate remains stuck at an impasse. Progress on the Senate's appropriations bill was scuttled due to disagreements over the nature of how the Pentagon would be funded.

Earlier this year the administration requested a Pentagon budget exceeding sequestration's budget caps by $38 billion. The Senate Appropriations Committee provided the funding requested, but used sequestration-exempt war accounts to pay for base operations. This budgetary gimmick is at the center of the current stalemate. The White House has threatened to veto any defense-spending bill using this method.

“Congress still has time to come to an agreement on funding DoD,” said Col. Mike Hayden, USAF (Ret), MOAA's Director of Government Relations. “A shutdown scare does nothing but add additional stress to military families.”