Congressional leaders are frantically seeking agreement on an extension of the current continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government at FY11 levels that is set to expire at midnight on Friday, November 18. The extension is needed in order for Congress to complete its work on the FY12 spending bills. On Monday night, the House Appropriations Committee released a joint House-Senate conference report on the first miniature omnibus (“minibus”) bill which, if passed, would also fund the government through December 16th via the attachment of the CR extension; thus averting a partial government shutdown. Among the departments provided for in this report is Transportation; significantly, the Transportation Enhancements (TE) funding has been retained in the conference’s final DOT appropriation for FY12 despite the best efforts of its opponents during Senate floor consideration.
TE funding appears to have survived another budget cycle, but the fate of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) remains less assured. While a Senate “draft” Interior Appropriations bill released a few weeks ago provided $45 million for LWCF State Assistance (a $5 million increase over FY11), the LWCF’s funding, as part of the Department of Interior’s overall appropriation, continues to be mired in committee. House Republicans have attached riders to the bill that seek to weaken environmental regulations, creating a significant obstacle to Senate passage. At this point, it is uncertain when the Senate may address the Interior bill. The House Interior Appropriations Committee passed its FY12 bill in July, but it has yet to reach the House floor. Regardless of riders, a sizeable contingent of House Republicans is expected to vote against any and all FY12 appropriations bills put before them.
It is entirely possible that, as the proverbial 11th hour approaches for the CR to expire again in December, the riders will be shed from the Interior appropriations bill in order to ensure Democratic support for it as part of another “mini-bus”. The alternative may be the wedging of Interior appropriations, as well as any other appropriations measures not yet passed, into an omnibus bill (a larger package of appropriations bills).
Once again, a government shut-down looms because of ideological rather than fiscal grounds during an election cycle - a practice that has become all too familiar. Although some level of partisan bickering has always occurred in politics, it seems to have escalated to new heights in Washington these last few years. Is the same true for local and state governments? And, if so, what impact is it having on park and recreation programs?
By: Leslie Mozingo with The Ferguson Group