Federal Update: Congressional Leaders Seek Short Extension of Funding Deadline

December 9, 2015

Congress is poised to extend its own December 11th funding deadline briefly as negotiations continue among leaders of both Parties in an attempt to finalize government spending for the rest of the fiscal year—a process kicked off by the passage of the Bipartisan Budget deal.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell confirmed that work will continue through Friday and possibly over the weekend, with another weeklong or few-day stopgap continuing resolution likely to be passed shortly to buy time.

Reports consistently indicate that funding levels are mostly settled and the remaining fights are over controversial policy add-ons known as riders. As far as University priorities go, it seems that research funding generally is trending positively, including for NIH.

However, until the final deal is reached and legislative text is released, individual funding levels cannot be confirmed, and it remains to be seen which programs—after several funding seasons of tight budget caps—receive relief and on the backs of which programs increases are financed. Any long-term continuing resolution—the equivalent of a funding status quo—could also jeopardize potential programmatic gains.

Standing in the way of agreeing to a catchall omnibus funding bill are controversial or “poison pill” riders, which range from measures aimed at Syrian refugees to environmental regulations, Wall Street regulations, campaign finance, oil exports, and more.

Neither side shows any appetite for a government shutdown, and with the holiday recess fast approaching, there is considerable enthusiasm to wrap this up by next week. The final policy and legislative mechanism for achieving that, however, remain the sticking points that must be addressed.

As always, please feel free to be in touch with Suzanne Day (Suzanne_day@harvard.edu) or Jon Groteboer (jon_groteboer@harvard.edu) in Harvard's DC office with any questions or concerns.