On Tuesday, the House passed a stopgap continuing resolution (CR) to fund the federal government through December 11 on an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote. It now awaits consideration in the Senate, where it is expected to pass in the next week before government funding runs out on October 1. Congress will attempt to finalize nearly $1.4 trillion in spending for the FY 2021, but the ongoing battle over COVID-19 relief and the new Supreme Court vacancy may complicate negotiations.
The CR restores funding for farm payments and pandemic-related assistance for subsidized meals for school-aged children. The CR also establishes new money to expand the food stamp and school meals programs to provide tailored relief to its recipients who have been affected by the pandemic. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) praised the agreement saying, “[w]e have reached an agreement with Republicans on the CR to add nearly $8 billion in desperately needed nutrition assistance for hungry schoolchildren and families.”
Democratic leadership initially rejected the Trump Administration’s proposal to allocate over $20 billion to the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) after it was reported that the Administration would divert nearly $300 million in CCC funds to oil refiners. Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) accused the Administration of using the CCC as a political “slush fund.” Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KA) denied such claims.
In the end, farm-state Democrats pushed to include the measure, and the CR now prohibits the diversion of such funds. This funding will allow the CCC to make payments out of the 2018 farm bill’s programs to farmers and ranchers suffering losses due to COVID-19 and the ongoing trade war with China. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has vowed that the CR would not pass the Senate without this funding.
The CR reauthorizes several programs, including the National Flood Insurance Program and surface transportation spending. It extends the highway authorization law by providing $13.6 billion for highway and mass transit, and $14 billion for aviation programs. The reauthorization also allocates $1.6 billion to the Navy in FY 2021 – nearly $10 billion short of the department’s ask – to begin construction on twelve new Columbia-class nuclear-missile submarines which will replace its aging Ohio class nuclear-submarines.