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Failing to finish funding bills, Congresses presses pause

Unable to reach agreement on 12 appropriations bills, Congress last week passed H.R. 5325, a “Continuing Resolution” often called a CR, that keeps the Federal government operating through December 9 when Congress will be forced to return for a lame-duck session to finish the appropriations bills. The President signed the CR late last week.Several piles of gold coins symbolizing government funding.

The CR provides funding levels for nearly all Federal programs, such as LSTA, IAL, Library of Congress, etc., at nearly the same levels set in last year’s Omnibus funding package. There is a slight decrease to many programs of 0.549%, however due in part, to “advance” funding increases for veterans’ health approved last year.

Earlier last week, Senate Republicans failed in their efforts to force through a Republican-written CR. Facing unified Democratic opposition and with the threat of a government shutdown – unappealing to all so close to the elections – Republicans and Democrats set aside funding disagreements for the time being.  The President signed the “clean” CR hours after the House passed the funding measure that had passed the Senate Tuesday.

Congress will be forced to address a series of contentious funding issues in a post-election lame-duck session. The most significant disagreements concerned funding relief for Flint, MI, water contamination, and Louisiana flooding disaster. Democrats were successful in blocking the Republican’s CR which did not including funding for Flint. The final CR did not include funding for either need but agreements were reached last week to address both needs in the lame-duck.

ALA continues to work to ensure strong funding for library programs which fared well in both House and Senate Appropriations Committees. While overall funding for education was cut significantly, both committees recommended small increases for LSTA and the Grants to States Program as well as level funding for Innovative Approaches to Literacy.

The outlook for this year’s lame-duck session could be quite interesting for several factors. The elections may result in a change of party control in the Senate and/or the White House. The lame-duck session will also include a number of departing Representatives and Senators who will be retiring or will have lost re-election not to mention the President will also be departing in January. We will be watching, with many others, to determine if the lame-duck will be contentious or if Members will just want to quickly and quietly wrap up business.

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Kevin Maher

Kevin Maher is the deputy director of government relations at the American Library Association’s Washington Office. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and political science from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Before coming to the ALA in 2014, Kevin was the vice president of government affairs for the American Hotel and Lodging Association for 20 years.

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