First, the good news: the government won’t have to shut down on Saturday, as Congressional leaders have agreed to a continuing resolution (CR) through December 9. As our regular readers will remember, the Fiscal Year 2016 budget year runs from October 1 2015 to September 30 2016 and if Congress has not passed a budget or a CR by this Saturday October 1, federal agencies must stop operations. The last government shutdown happened back in 2013 but we’ve been dealing with the potential of one every year since. The agreed to CR puts funding for federal agencies generally, and science research accounts specifically, on autopilot at Fiscal Year 2016 levels.
Now, the bad news: this in no way clears up how Fiscal Year 2017 (the budget that will technically start on Saturday) will end up looking. First, no Federal agencies will get any new money until a final budget is determined. Secondly, it doesn’t guarantee a finished budget in December. All eyes are now on how the election unfolds in November: if Democrats retake the Senate and/or the House, Congressional Republicans may want to tackle a budget now while they are in power. However, if Republicans retain either, or both, chambers, and potentially retake the White House, they may want to punt the budget to next year when they are in a stronger position. Given the added complications of the Freedom Caucus, who want major cuts in Federal spending and who have been a continuing problem for Republican Congressional leaders, only time will tell what happens.
Stay tuned, as we will have the latest developments for the Fiscal Year 2017 on our blog.