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Continuing resolution debate shifts to Senate

The debate over a Continuing Resolution (CR) necessary to provide funding for agencies and programs for the remainder of FY11 will shift to the Senate when Congress returns from a week long recess.

The debate over a Continuing Resolution (CR) necessary to provide funding for agencies and programs for the remainder of FY11 will shift to the Senate when Congress returns from a week long recess.

Early on Feb. 19, just before leaving town for the President’s Day recess, the House approved a CR along party lines. The legislation, H.R. 1, covers the remainder of FY11 and would cut about $61.5 billion from FY10 spending levels and provide $99.6 billion less than the administration’s FY11 budget proposal, which was never enacted.

Senate Democratic Leaders immediately rejected the House plan as draconian. Initially, Senate Democrats indicated they would draft a one-month extension at current spending levels while working on the longer-term CR. House Republicans indicated any short-term CR would have to include proportionate cuts to the CR passed on Feb. 19.

Reports now indicate Senate Democrats are drafting a short term CR that contains many cuts that are taken from the Administration’s recently submitted FY12 budget. Senate Democratic leaders said they will consider proposals to cut spending more deeply when they negotiate a long-term government spending bill for the remainder of FY11.

Although they previously said they supported $41 billion in cuts, Senate Majority Leader Reid, D-Nev., said he and other Democrats agree they will consider more reductions in order to finish work soon on a bill to fund the federal government for the balance of the fiscal year. Reid told reporters, though, that Senate Democrats are not prepared to accept the hundreds of riders and legislative changes that House Republicans inserted into the CR before it was passed on Feb. 18.

The $1.2 trillion CR was subject to some four days of debate in the House as Members from both parties drafted more than 500 amendments to the measure. While most of those amendments were not actually debated, many were considered during the more than 80 hours of debate on the floor. During a series of key votes on Feb. 18, Republicans overwhelmingly backed proposals to ban federal agencies from spending any money to implement health care reform. Additional measures targeting certain EPA activities were approved, including one to keep the agency from enforcing rules to limit stationary source emissions.

The CR moving to the Senate carries hundreds of policy changes that Senate Democrats have decried. Republicans, however, demonstrated an unwillingness to make even deeper spending cuts than those already contained in H.R. 1.

During the debate, the House rejected amendments by Rep. Kind to prohibit USDA from making contributions to the Brazilian Cotton Institute which would have resulted in the United States being non-compliant with a government to government agreement and would trigger retaliation against US exports. The House also rejected an amendment by Rep. Blumenauer, D-Ore., to create a $250,000 per legal entity limit for all farm program benefits.

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