Congress this week temporarily avoided another self-created crisis by passing a funding measure that keeps the government running through Dec. 11 at existing spending levels for all federal programs—including those administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Underlying partisan conflicts remain that must be resolved before any new spending levels for FY 2016—which began Oct. 1—from being enacted.
Democrats in Washington want increased spending on domestic discretionary programs. Republicans want more spending on military and defense programs. To grow spending in either category, Republicans insist that it not raise the deficit, which means savings have to be found elsewhere.
And conservative opposition to funding for the women’s health group Planned Parenthood, due to controversial videos that have stoked the abortion issue, also complicates reaching a long-term agreement by the December deadline.
There was a second example of Congress kicking the can down the road this week.
Congress also faced the Sept. 30 expiration of the Federal Aviation Administration Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. The law authorizes aviation programs, including airport construction, air traffic control and general airport operations overseen by the federal government.
Instead of passing a long-term measure, Congress opted for a six-month extension through March 31, similar to what it has been doing with highway and transit funding since October of 2014.
House committee leaders charged with writing the aviation authorization legislation pledged to make this the only extension, saying they plan to finish work on the bill later this year or early in 2016.
We will continue to keep you apprised of the budget negotiations as they proceed over the coming weeks and months.