We have been hearing a lot about "continuing resolutions" lately, and in particular, a "clean" continuing resolution. No need to be in the dark any further, because we are here to clear up any misconceptions.
The continuing resolution
A continuing resolution is nothing more than a type of appropriations legislation used by the Congress of the United States as a way to fund government agencies for one specific reason. It is used when a proper appropriations bill has not been signed into law by the president by the end of the fiscal year. Our government ends their fiscal year on September 30 every year, and the new one begins on October 1.
The legislation takes the form of a "joint resolution" because it must be approved and voted on by both the House of Representatives and the Senate. It provides funding for existing government programs only, and at current or reduced levels.
The "clean" continuing resolution being talked about is nothing more than the appropriations part of the bill without any changes to the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare.
The Budget- appropriations bills
Each year, in February, the president sends his proposed budget to the Congress. Congress then divides the budget into twelve parts, or appropriations bills. Each of these bills must be passed separately. The president must then sign each of these bills by October 1 of each year, ensuring that our government will keep operating.
If Congress doesn't pass all the appropriation bills, and if the president does not sign them, all nonessential government functions will cease to operate because, by law, the executive and legislative branches are prevented from spending any money. This is why a continuing resolution is needed to prevent a shutdown.
The continuing resolution has become common practice
Congress has used the continuing resolution more than most people realize. It seems to pop up as the end of the fiscal year comes into sight, more often than not because Congress has failed to pass few, if any of the 12 major appropriations bills needed to fund the government on October 1. In order to keep the government running, they have to pass stop-gap legislation, or "continuing resolutions."
The CR has become the "norm." To add a little historical perspective to this subject, it has been 14 years since the House, Senate and the president have agreed on a bill to fund the government for a full year. According to the Congressional Research Service, in the past 26 years, Congress and the president have agreed on a year-long budget only three times, in 1989, 1995 and 1997.
The 1995-1996 government shutdown
The most infamous government shutdown occurred in 1995-1996 under President Bill Clinton's watch. A stand-off between President Clinton and congressional Republicans led to not one, but two shutdowns lasting a total of 26 days.
While the GOP didn't have enough votes to override a presidential veto of the Republican budget, they instead opted to not submit a revised budget, letting the appropriations legislation expire. This caused a partial shutdown of some government services.
The second shutdown lasted three weeks and resulted in 284,000 out of 1.9 million federal employees being placed on furlough without benefit of pay. Eighteen years ago, when he was confronted with repeated and unreasonable demands for enormous cuts to programs he considered critical to America’s well-being, President Bill Clinton said,
“America can never accept under pressure what it would not accept in free and open debate.”