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Congress Continues to Try to Finalize FY2011 Appropriations; Senate Fails to Pass Two Alternative Bills with Another Short-Term CR Likely

Legislative Update
March 10, 2011

More than five months into Fiscal Year (FY) 2011, Congress continues to attempt to finalize FY2011 appropriations, with the prospect of another short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) increasingly likely. Yesterday, the Senate voted on, and failed to pass, two competing proposals that would fund the government for the remainder of the fiscal year. The proposals, one offered by the Democrats and one by the Republicans, each failed to garner the needed 60 votes to overcome the expected filibuster by the other side.

The Republican bill, which failed 56-44 with three Republicans joining all Democrats in opposing the bill, would have cut $57 billion from current spending levels and keep the government operating through the end of the fiscal year. The three GOP Senators that voted with the Democrats—Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Jim DeMint (R-SC) —voted against the bill because it was insufficiently aggressive in reducing federal spending.

The Democratic alternative, which would have cut a more modest $4.7 billion in federal spending, failed, 42-58, with 11 Democrats joining all of the chamber’s Republicans against the measure.

The Republican proposal would have cut funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by $1.6 billion, a reduction of 5.2% below the FY2010 funding level, while the Democratic alternative would have flat-funded the NIH at the FY2010 level. The Republican bill’s cuts would have been magnified by the fact that they would have to be absorbed over the remaining 7 months in the current fiscal year, intensifying their impact.

The federal government is currently operating under a CR that expires March 18, and with the failure of the two competing bills, it is increasingly likely that another short-term CR will be needed to give Senate negotiators time to craft a compromise bill.