Hurry Up and Wait…..Again

Credit: House Appropriations Committee Chair Tom Cole (R-OK)

The last year that Congress succeeded in enacting all of the appropriations bills on time (by October 1, the first day of the fiscal year), without enacting a continuing resolution, was CY 1996. Since 1997, Congress enacted 130 continuing resolutions (CRs) in order to provide the time to complete the appropriations process. CRs require agencies to operate under funding levels and terms and conditions from the prior year, delaying funding decisions, delaying procurements, leaving Federal agencies and the families and businesses that rely on them in limbo for months at a time.

In the last four Presidential election years, appropriations were not completed until December 27, 2021 (PL 116-260), May 5, 2017 (PL 115-31), March 26, 2013 (PL 113-6), and March 11, 2009 (PL 111-8). All indicators suggest that this pattern will repeat itself this year, with political factors overtaking the appropriations schedule.

For FY25, the topline on annual appropriations was set by the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA) of 2023 (PL 118-5). The agreement provides for a 1% increase from FY24 to FY25 for both defense and non-defense spending as shown in Chart I below.

*The agreement between President Biden and then-Speaker McCarthy (R-CA) included a so-called “side deal” for an additional $69 billion for non-defense spending in FY24 and $69.9 billion in FY25. The FY 24 Consolidated Appropriations laws included the side bar deal, so total non-defense spending was $772.7 billion. Chart I. Source: Fiscal Responsibility Act, FBIQ.

Rather than abiding by the bipartisan FRA, House Republican and Senate Democrat Leadership are marching in opposite directions.

On May 23, 2024, the House Appropriations Committee approved a partisan subcommittee allocation that hits the $710.7 billion FY25 cap for non-defense spending, but does not include the $69.9 billion side bar deal, so rather than provide the 1% increase that was agreed to in the FRA, the House bills provide for a 9-10% cut relative to FY24 appropriations. The House Appropriations Committee has now reported six of the twelve bills based on the partisan allocation and included numerous so-called poison pill legislative riders related to abortion, family planning, climate, immigration, and diversity.

The Biden Administration has threatened to veto such appropriations bills. In a Statement of Administration Policy issued on June 3, 2024, the Biden Administration stated, “Rather than respecting their agreement and taking the opportunity to engage in a productive, bipartisan appropriations process to build on last year’s bills, House Republicans are again wasting time with partisan bills that would result in deep cuts to law enforcement, education, housing, health care, consumer safety, energy programs that lower utility bills and combat climate change, and essential nutrition services.”

In the Senate, Chair Murray (D-WA) and Vice Chair Collins (R-ME) have not been able to reach agreement on a FY25 topline or allocations and markups have been pushed to July.

Senate Republicans are insisting on a larger increase for defense than the 1% increase in the FRA. As in past years, Senate Democrats are insisting on parity—any increase in defense spending above the FRA must be matched by increases for non-defense programs. Last week, the Senate Armed Services Committee reported the annual National Defense Authorization Act at a level of $923 billion, $28 billion above the FY25 FRA level.

On June 18, Chair Murray released an analysis entitled, “1% More for Nondefense=Painful Shortfalls Across Government: Impairing America’s Economy, Competitiveness, and Future.” Murray’s analysis concludes, “As Congress works to pass FY25 appropriations bills, it must begin by making full use of the resources agreed to under the FRA – that means providing no less than the agreed- upon 1% increase for defense and non-defense alike in FY25. But if Congress wants to invest in a stronger American economy and a stronger future for our families – as we as national security – then Democrats and Republicans should come together to address the inadequacy of the FRA caps for FY25.”


With no agreement between Murray and Collins, Murray plans to begin the Senate Appropriations Committee mark up process the week of July 8 starting with consideration of allocations and three bills, Military Construction-VA, Legislative Branch, and Agriculture. Last year, the Committee reported all twelve bills on a bipartisan basis. At this point, it does not appear that Murray and Collins will be able to replicate that effort this year.

With the House and Senate in recess from August 2 – September 9, and all of October, the most likely path forward is for Congress to enact a CR from October 1 through early to mid-December. Depending on the outcome of the elections, it is also quite possible that another continuing resolution will be enacted through April 30, half way through FY25. Under the terms of the FRA, if any of the bills are funded under a CR after April 30, 2025, there could be an across the board sequester applied to both defense and non-defense programs (1% below the FY23 levels).


Every federal agency operates under Continuing Resolutions at FY24 levels through most of the first quarter (October-December 2024) of FY25.