Congress Passes Stop-Gap Spending Bill to Prevent Shutdown

The House approved a stop-gap spending bill known as a continuing resolution (CR) Tuesday to maintain funding for federal programs through Nov. 18 and give Congress more time to the finalize fiscal year (FY) 2012 budget. President Obama plans to sign the CR today. The House approved the stop-gap measure by a 352-66 vote. 

The Senate reached a bipartisan agreement on the CR last week, marking the end of a heated bipartisan debate primarily centered on disaster relief funding provided in the CR. The Senate approved the stop-gap spending measure by a vote of 79 to 12.

The CR buys Congress a few more months to settle the fiscal year (FY) 2012 appropriations process, since they failed to pass the 12 individual appropriations bills before the beginning of FY 2012 on Oct. 1. Earlier this month, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health, Human Services and Education (Labor-H) approved their FY 2012 spending bill, which would eliminate the interest subsidy on federal student loans during the six-month grace period and use those funds help fund the maximum Pell Grant of $5,550 for the 2012-13 award year. All other student aid programs received level funding in the Senate Labor-H bill.

House leaders have introduced their own version of a FY 2012 Labor-H spending bill that also maintains the $5,550 maximum Pell Grant, but would restrict Pell eligibility to reduce the cost of the program.

Instead of passing individual spending bills, the House and Senate are expected to negotiate an omnibus spending bill, bundling all 12 appropriations bills into one large FY 2012 spending bill. The House and Senate's versions of the FY 2012 Labor-H spending bills will likely serve as starting points for negotiating the omnibus spending bill.