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Federal update: Congress OKs another quick fix

March 23, 2011
Lori Clark

Lori Clark

Congress has approved, and President Obama has signed, the sixth short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) to keep the federal government running.

This latest CR is set to expire Friday, April 8. It contains an additional $6 billion in spending cuts, mainly from funding rescissions, reductions and program terminations. No accounts impacting higher education were cut in this CR.

With each CR, there are increasing numbers of opponents, including both conservative Republicans, who feel that the cuts are not deep enough, and liberal Democrats, who are objecting to the use of budget bills to advance controversial policy dictates such as Planned Parenthood, health care reform (Obamacare), Wall Street reform and climate change.

There appears to be little appetite for yet another CR, and there are high-level discussions between Speaker of the House John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the White House about how to reach a compromise that will allow for the passage of a six-month budget for the remainder of FY2011.

Lawmakers are on a one-week recess for district time this week, and Congress begins its spring recess Friday, April 15, so the next couple of weeks should be quite busy.

Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, is expected to announce his FY2012 budget resolution the week of April 4. It is anticipated that this resolution will include measures to rein in the cost of Medicaid, to slow the growth of Medicaid and to do something to control the costs of Social Security, possibly raising the retirement age by a year or two over the next two decades. 

The Senate continues to debate the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)/Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) reauthorization bill (S. 493). Final Senate action is anticipated within the next week or two.

In the midst of the turmoil regarding the FY 2011 budget, international activities have focused attention on the tragic events resulting from the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis in Japan, as well as the international actions against Libya.

The damage to nuclear reactors in Japan has led to increased congressional investigations and policy questions on the nuclear energy industry in the United States, especially because the Obama administration has supported the expansion of U.S. nuclear energy production.

The Voices section of NIU Today features opinions and perspectives from across campus. Lori Clark is director of federal relations for NIU.