Congress Finally Agrees on a Budget for the final Six Months of Fiscal Year 2013.
March 25, 2013
Until now, there has been no budget covering the last six months of FY 2013 (April – September). For the first six months of the fiscal year the government operated under a “continuing resolution” that, more or less, extended the 2012 spending levels into 2013. The continuing resolution was scheduled to expire on March 27, at which time the federal government would have no longer been authorized to spend any money and nonessential functions would have halted.
In the face of the looming deadline and threatened government shutdown, by March 21, both houses of Congress approved, and the President signed, a budget to cover the rest of this fiscal year. Policymakers did not overturn the sequester, the across-the-board spending cuts that went into effect on March 1 this year. However the new legislation does permit flexibility within some budget categories thus allowing selected programs to undergo less severe cuts. However, smaller cuts in one area of a budget category must be offset by more severe cuts in another. This does allow some needed flexibility but it also opens the door to abuses. For example, meat packing companies complained that reductions in the number of meat inspectors, as required in the across-the-board sequester cuts, would cause hardships. So within the budget for the Department of Agriculture, money was transferred to reduce the cuts in inspectors. But the money came from other D. of A. programs, including the school breakfast program for poor children, and increased the size of their cuts.
Senate reaches deal on continuing resolution by David Rogers, Politico, March 20, 2013.
House approves resolution to keep government running; bill heads to White House by Rosalind S. Helderman and Lisa Rein, Washington Post, March 21, 2013.