Rep. Connolly shares outlook on Congressional stalemate

Friday - 9/16/2011, 9:48am EDT

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By Jack Moore
Federal News Radio

Congress may be back in session, but stalemates continue across the board when it comes to federal funding.

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) told Federal News Radio he can't offer any assurances there won't be another shutdown or even a near-shutdown.

However, he said he's relatively hopeful that won't happen because the House Appropriations Committee has already taken the step of readying a continuing resolution to fund the government if appropriations bills are not passed by the Sept. 30 deadline.

"I think that's good news .. that legislation's already prepared to address full funding of the government," he said, but added he wanted to "avoid the brinkmanship" that characterized the year's earlier budget battles.

Connolly's outlook was slightly more optimistic than that of his colleague Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), who told Federal News Radio earlier this week he wasn't confident Congress would pass appropriations bills on time or that the super committee, tasked with cutting the deficit, would be able to come to an agreement.

Connolly said budget battles have become more frequent on Capitol because of overarching disagreements about government philosophy.

"I think that you've got a profound clash in philosophies going on in the Congress," he said, noting the 2010 midterm elections, which saw a wave of Republicans, most of whom have been focused on cutting spending, elected in the House.

"I think that the differences between the two parties in terms of philosophy of governance are as profound as they've ever been," he said. "And as a result, that sort of permeates the debate and attitude toward the need for programs, the need for continuity, the need for future investments," he said.

A continuing resolution, which sets funding for programs at the previous year's level — is a blunt budgetary instrument — especially for contractors, he said.

Contractors are very concerned about funding levels, Connolly acknowledged. But, "It's as much about the uncertainty of the future as it is about the actual amounts that are appropriated," he added.

However, for all the talk of gridlock and stalemate, Connolly said bipartisan efforts to repeal a rule that would withhold 3 percent of contractor payments has garnered bipartisan support, and he said he hopes it will be taken up this year.

This story is part of Federal News Radio's Congressional Spotlight sponsored by United Technologies Corporation. Click here for more stories on Congress.