Congress passes CR, headed to Obama

Tuesday - 12/21/2010, 1:11pm EST

By Jolie Lee
Federal News Radio

The Senate passed a continuing resolution on Tuesday that funds government through March 4, 2011.

The current CR expires Tuesday.

The latest stopgap spending measure includes a pay freeze of civilian federal employees for two years, starting in 2011.

The freeze would not affect an employee's ability to receive more money through promotions and step increases. The White House said it will offer more details on implementing the freeze after Congress approves the measure.

The House of Representatives is expected to approve the spending bill later on Tuesday and then send it to President Obama to sign into law.

Funding for the CR will be $1.16 billion above the fiscal year 2010 spending levels, to pay for some programs that would "otherwise expire or be severely disrupted," according to a release from the Senate Committee on Appropriations.

For example, the CR adds $460 million to the Veteran Benefits Administration funding to prevent layoffs of claims processors and to help reduce processing times for disability claims.

The measure contains other "anomalies" from the previous CR:

  • Extends the application period for retroactive stop loss benefits through the duration of the CR.
  • In conjunction with the START treaty, provides an additional $624 million to the National Nuclear Security Administration's weapons program.
  • Extends the authority of the Defense Department to execute the Commanders Emergency Response Program, an "essential tool" for combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • Extends for the duration of the CR the existing authority for the Department of Homeland Security to oversee regulation of chemical facilities that present high levels of risk.
  • Extends the existing authority of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide assistance for pre-disaster hazards.
  • Provides an additional $23 million to the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (formerly the Minerals Management Service) for increased oil rig inspections in the Gulf of Mexico.

Among programs that would see a disruption in funding based on the proposed CR are financial and health care reforms passed after funding was set for FY 2010. These include:

  • Additional funding to the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission for implementation of the Frank-Dodd Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.
  • Additional funding to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Health and Human Services, the creation of a Prevention and Public Health Fund, and a national healthcare workforce commission as part of the implementation of health care reforms set out by the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act.

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