September 17, 2014

H. J. Res. 124 – Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2015


Noteworthy

Background: H.J.Res. 124, the continuing resolution, was introduced on September 9. The House passed the CR on September 17 by a vote of 319-108. Before passage, the House amended the CR with language that authorizes the secretary of defense, in coordination with the secretary of state, to provide assistance – including training, equipment, and supplies – to appropriately vetted elements of the Syrian opposition.

Floor Situation: The exact timing of Senate consideration of the CR is uncertain.

Executive Summary: H.J.Res. 124 is a continuing resolution funding the federal government until December 11, 2014. CBO reports that this CR provides fiscal year 2015 regular discretionary budget authority at an annualized level of $1.012 trillion, approximately equal to the 2014 discretionary funding level set by the Bipartisan Budget Act. The CR authorizes an across-the-board reduction in the rate for operations of 0.0554 percent in order to bring spending down to the fiscal year 2014 cap level, which results in savings of $571 million.


Considerations on the Bill

The total regular discretionary appropriations provided by the CR are at an annualized level of $1.012 trillion. Defense spending is provided at an annualized level of $517.7 billion and non-defense spending is provided at an annualized level of $494.5 billion. For comparison, the 2015 regular discretionary spending caps total $1.014 trillion ($521.3 billion for defense, and $492.4 for non-defense). After adding in GWOT/OCO funding, as well as certain disaster and program integrity funding, the total annualized discretionary funding is $1.111 trillion.

The CR also contains several important policy matters. It extends the Internet Tax Freedom Act until December 11, 2014, and extends the Export-Import Bank’s authorization through June 30, 2015. The amendment regarding Syria would authorize the secretary of defense, in coordination with the secretary of state, to provide assistance, including training, equipment, supplies, and sustainment, to appropriately vetted elements of the Syrian opposition. The amendment language is similar to language at section 1209 of the Senate Armed Services Committee version of the fiscal year 2015 defense authorization bill (S. 2410), and section 9015 of the Senate Appropriations Committee version of the fiscal year 2015 defense appropriations bill (H.R. 4810), both of which were passed out of their respective committees months ago and neither of which Majority Leader Reid has scheduled for floor consideration. CBO reports that this Title X authority does not increase the CR’s cost.

Notable Bill Provisions

Amendment: Syria Train and Equip

This amendment authorizes the secretary of defense, in coordination with the secretary of state, to provide assistance to elements of the Syrian opposition for the following purposes:

  • Defending the Syrian people from ISIL attacks and securing territory controlled by the Syrian opposition;
  • Protecting the United States, its allies, and the Syrian people from the threats posed by terrorists in Syria; and
  • Promoting the conditions for a negotiated settlement to end the conflict in Syria.

The amendment requires that opposition groups be vetted for associations with terrorist groups, Shia militias aligned with or supporting the government of Syria, and groups associated with the government of Iran, including, but not limited to: ISIL; Jabhat al Nusrah; other al-Qaeda related groups; and Hezbollah.

The amendment requires that the secretary, prior to providing such assistance for the first time, submit a report on the plan for providing assistance, the process to vet recipients, and the mechanism to monitor unauthorized use of training and equipment. It further requires the president to submit a report on how this assistance fits into a larger regional strategy. It then provides a reporting requirement for the secretary to keep Congress updated on how this program is being carried out.

Under the amendment, the Department of Defense submits a reprogramming or transfer request to the congressional defense committees for funds made available by this CR for the purpose of carrying out the authorized activities. It goes on to authorize the secretary to accept and retain contributions from foreign governments to carry out this amendment, which are to be designated as OCO funds and are to be credited to the appropriate operations and maintenance accounts of the department. Such accepted funds cannot be obligated until a reprogramming request is submitted.

The amendment provides that its authority shall continue for the duration of this CR or until a fiscal year 2015 defense authorization bill is enacted, whichever is earlier.

It provides that nothing in this section shall be construed to constitute a statutory authorization for the introduction of military forces into hostilities or into situations where hostilities are clearly indicated by the circumstances. It provides this section shall not supersede or alter the president’s reporting requirements under the War Powers Act regarding the use of U.S. Armed Forces abroad. 

Section 101

This section provides budget authority in fiscal year 2015 for projects and activities that were funded in fiscal year 2014. This section also authorizes an across-the-board reduction in the rate for operations of 0.0554 percent in order to bring spending down to the fiscal year 2014 cap level, which results in savings of $571 million. 

Section 102

This section prohibits the Department of Defense from funding new projects, activities, etc. that were not funded in 2014. It prohibits new starts and prohibits resumption of activities for which funds were not available in fiscal year 2014.

Section 103

This section provides that the fiscal year 2015 CR funding shall be governed by provisions in the applicable appropriations act.

Section 104

This section states that no project or activity may receive funds if it was not funded in fiscal year 2014.

Section 105

This section provides that the fiscal year 2015 CR covers all valid obligations and expenses during the period of the CR.

Section 106

This section states that the CR will last until December 11, 2014.

Section 107

This section provides that expenditures made under this CR will count toward funding totals when final appropriations legislation is enacted.

Section 108

This section allows the use of CR funds regardless of a timeline governing apportionments contained in 31 USC 1513. Identical language was included in CRs during the 112th and 113th Congresses.

Section 109

This section prevents agencies that typically have high rates of outlays at the beginning of the fiscal year from making these outlays. This is done to preserve Congress’ ability to lower spending levels later when final appropriations legislation is considered.

Section 110

This section requires agencies to outlay as little funding as possible to continue projects and activities.

Section 111

This section allows mandatory outlays to continue at rates provided for in current law.

Section 112

This section provides flexibility under the current rate for agencies to allocate salary and benefit funding to avoid furloughs in certain circumstances; but only if the agency has already taken all actions to lower and delay non-personnel administrative expenses.

Section 113

This section allows CR funds to be obligated and spent, notwithstanding several provisions of the U.S. Code that prohibit obligation and expenditure of an appropriation that is unauthorized or exceeds the authorized amount: (1) 22 USC 2412 regarding foreign assistance; (2) 22 USC 2680 regarding the State Department; (3) 22 USC 6212 regarding the Broadcasting Board of Governors; (4) 50 USC 3094(a)(1) regarding intelligence.

Section 114

This section makes budgetary cap designations for GWOT/OCO funding, disaster funding, and Social Security administrative funding. The section exempts these amounts from the 0.0554 percent across-the-board rescission in Section 101.

Section 115

During the period of the CR, this section applies the 0.0554 percent across-the-board reduction in Section 101 to any advance appropriations made in prior years that become available in fiscal year 2015.

Section 116

This section increases funding for the Department of Agriculture’s Commodity Supplemental Food Program to a rate for operations of $208.7 million.

Section 117

This section allows “outsourcing facility fees” authorized by the Drug Quality and Security Act (P.L. 113-54), to be credited to the Food and Drug Administration’s salaries and expenses account.

Section 118

This section allows expenditures for work to continue on two weather satellites to keep them on schedule and on budget.

Section 119

This section allows up to $50 million of the GWOT/OCO funding allowed in this CR to be used to clear unexploded ordnance at training ranges in Afghanistan.

Section 120

This section continues certain Department of Defense authorities during the length of the CR or until the enactment of a Defense authorization bill, whichever occurs first.

Section 121

This section provides authority to avoid disruption in the Department of Energy’s Uranium Enrichment Decontamination and Decommissioning Fund and provides for congressional notification when this authority is used.

Section 122

This section provides authority to avoid disruption in the Department of Energy’s Defense Environmental Cleanup account. This is necessary to allow for repairs to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in response to a February radioactive release. These repairs are needed to restart the WIPP facility, which is the nation’s only permanent repository for transuranic defense waste. The section provides for congressional notification when this authority is used.

Section 123

This section allows the District of Columbia to spend local funds in accordance with the provisions included in H.R. 5016, the House Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act, 2015.

Section 124

This section provides a rate for operations of $22.9 million for the Office of Special Counsel to address increased caseload for employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Section 125

This section increases the lending limit under the Small Business Administration’s Section 7(a) program by $1 billion, to $18.5 billion.

Section 126

This section extends the Internet Tax Freedom Act until December 11, 2014.

Section 127

This section extends through December 11, 2014, authority for the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards, thereby extending DHS regulations regarding the security of chemical facilities.

Section 128

This section extends through December 11, 2014, current law regarding DHS’s authority regarding research and development projects.

Section 129

This section allows U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to obligate funding at a rate necessary to maintain and support current staffing numbers. This section also allows funding at a rate to maintain CBP and ICE border security and immigration enforcement operations, such as those necessary to operate detention facilities to handle the influx of families and unaccompanied alien children.  Similar language was included as part of the fiscal year 2014 CR.

Section 130

This section ensures that the Department of the Interior and the Forest Service can continue to collect fees from park passes sold under the authority of the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act through the period of the CR.

Section 131

This section extends funding authority for the Eisenhower memorial commission. However, during the length of the CR, it expressly denies certain authorities for capital construction given in P.L. 112-74 (including authority to contract for the full scope of the project).

Section 132

This section extends the authorization for funding for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program to states and territories until December 11, 2014.

Section 133

This section makes a change to the base grant calculation for Head Start grantees.

Section 134

This section updates the fiscal year in a proviso that directs how funding is allocated for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

Section 135

This section allows Refugee and Entrant Assistance funding to be spent at a rate for operations needed to maintain the service level provided in 2014. Similar language was provided in the fiscal year 2014 CR.

Section 136

This section appropriates $58 million, with the funding available until September 30, 2015, to HHS for research and development on Ebola therapies.

Section 137

This section provides $30 million, funding available until September 30, 2015, for the Centers for Disease Control’s response to Ebola.

Section 138

This section allows the transfer of certain Department of Education programs to the Department of Health and Human Services as mandated by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.

Section 139

This section rescinds $4.549 billion in unobligated balances from the Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009. These are funds in excess of expected need.

Section 140

This section extends until December 11, 2014, the authority in P.L. 113-76, Division H, Sec. 113 for flexibility for H-2B nonimmigrant workers in the seafood industry.

Section 141

This section provides a rate for operations for military construction that results in funding of $6.56 billion, which is $3.25 billion below the fiscal year 2014 enacted level. This level represents the midpoint of the fiscal year 2015 House-passed and Senate-reported levels.

Section 142

This section provides a rate for general operating expenses for the Veterans Benefits Administration consistent with a funding level of $2.5 billion, which is $58.7 million above the fiscal year 2014 enacted level and is provided to address the claims processing backlog at the VA.

Section 143

This section provides a rate for operations for the Veterans Affairs inspector general consistent with a funding level of $126.4 million, which is $5.0 million above the fiscal year 2014 enacted level and is provided to address the influx of whistleblower complaints and subsequent investigations.

Section 144

This section extends authority for the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom to December 11, 2014.

Section 145

This section directs funds in a variety of State Department/Foreign Operations accounts to be obligated at a rate necessary to sustain operations assisting Ukraine and other countries in countering external aggression and influence.

Section 146

This section extends certain restrictions in current law prohibiting funding from being used to implement various climate change plans at the Overseas Private Investment Corporation or the Export-Import Bank, if such plans would disadvantage coal-fired projects or other power-generation projects, to December 11, 2014.

Section 147

This section extends the Export-Import Bank’s authorization through June 30, 2015.

Section 148

This section extends the authority for the Secretary of Transportation to issue to air carriers insurance and reinsurance policies related to acts of terrorism.

Administration Position

The Administration issued a Statement of Administration Policy supporting the CR.

Cost

The total regular discretionary appropriations provided by the CR amounts to an annualized level of $1.012 trillion. Defense spending is provided at an annualized level of $517.7 billion and non-defense spending is provided at an annualized level of $494.5 billion. For comparison, the 2015 regular discretionary spending caps total $1.014 trillion ($521.3 billion for defense, and $492.4 for non-defense). If the CR funding levels were extended for the entire fiscal year, the non-defense breach would cause non-defense spending to be subject to a sequester 15 days after Congress adjourns at the end of this calendar year. After adding in GWOT/OCO funding as well as certain disaster and program integrity funding, the total annualized discretionary funding is $1.111 trillion.

Amendments

The amendment situation is unclear at this time.