August has been unusually rainy and cool by Washington, D.C. standards, but that didn’t stop Congress from blowing hot air around town before departing for their month-long “District Work Period,” otherwise known as the August recess.
Congress managed to heat things up before leaving town by failing to agree on a plan to fund the government past Sept. 30, when the current Continuing Resolution (or “CR”) expires. CRs are used to provide funding for government programs at current levels when Congress fails to pass appropriations bills for the next fiscal year. They have historically been used infrequently, but they’ve become the norm in recent years. That’s because of the deep divides (plural) in Congress between Democrats and Republicans, Democrats and Democrats, and Republicans and Republicans. Many Democrats favor continued, or even increased, spending on many government programs (except Defense), while many Republicans favor reduced spending on most programs (except Defense). In most years that’s enough to create a temporary impasse, but enough common ground can usually be found to cobble together a compromise and avoid a government shutdown.