The Week Ahead in Congress

The House and Senate return this week, with plans to work on one major piece of legislation — a spending bill for the rest of fiscal year 2013. While the $85 billion sequester went into effect last Friday, neither the House nor Senate has any plans to take up legislation to amend it or repeal it this week.

Some Information about the Legislative Process …

What is a “continuing resolution”? It’s a type of legislation used by Congress to fund government agencies if a formal spending bill has not been signed into law by the end of the fiscal year in September.

Under the current continuing resolution, the government is funded until late March. The House is expected to pass a resolution for the rest of the fiscal year, through September. Normally, a continuing resolution would allow the government to continue only with programs already in existence. Last week, however, Republicans said they would try to pass a resolution that gives the Defense Department the flexibility to start new programs over the next six months.

What is a “suspension bill”?

Suspension of the rules is a procedure generally used to quickly pass non-controversial bills in the U.S. House of Representatives.

A motion to suspend the rules is in order on Mondays and Tuesdays, and toward the end of a session of Congress.  Such motions may only be made by the Speaker of the House or the Speaker’s designee, though it is customary for committee chairs to write the Speaker requesting a suspension. Once a member makes a motion to “suspend the rules” and take some action, debate is limited to 40 minutes, no amendments can be offered to the motion or the underlying matter, and a 2/3 majority of Members present and voting is required to agree to the motion. “Suspension” is about as close as you can get to the equivalent of a “filibuster” in the U.S. House.

In the House

Other than the continuing resolution, the House has plans to work on a few suspension bills:

In the Senate

The Senate is in all week, but as of the weekend it had no plan to take up any legislation, except for a resolution setting budgets for Senate committees for the rest of the fiscal year. The Senate will vote on some judicial nominations, and could make plans during the week to consider other bills.

CBO Budget Forecast presented this Morning

This morning, Congressional Budget Office Director  Douglas W. Elmendorf presented the CBO’s budget forecast this morning on C-SPAN.  Their  new Budget and Economic Outlook  shows a small improvement in the deficit, but rising unemployment.  Their report projects a $1.1 trillion federal budget deficit for FY 2012, or a 7 percent drop from last year. However, it also projects unemployment to rise to 8.9 percent in 2012.

For a summary of the CBO Report and it’s associated resources: