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Capitolworks: Just the Facts...Legislative “Anomalies” Dictate Federal Policy in the Continuing Reso

Throughout Washington and across the Nation, continuing resolutions have been the center of discussion for many as they wonder if/when/how their jobs, programs, etc. will continue to be funded. In its simplest sense, a continuing resolution (CR) is a piece of legislation that allows the federal government to continue funding itself at current funding levels. All spending bills must pass both congressional chambers by a super majority, a number exceeding a simple majority, and be signed into law by the President. On its face, a seemingly straightforward process. However, if that was, in fact, the case, why did the government go into shutdown mode and why was it so difficult to finally pass yet another short-term CR? The answer to this question is a lesser-known legislative tactic known as a CR anomaly.

CR anomalies are additional unrelated pieces of legislation that Congressional members add to a must-pass CR. In this last CR, those policies were immigration and border defense priorities, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, disaster relief funding, among others. Several of these policies were, and are, deeply partisan and would require significant negotiations to come to a place of consensus. Additionally, we return to the fact that a House and Senate super majority must pass a CR -- 60 votes in the Senate-- which means that passage of the CR, and its anomalies, require support and votes from the minority party. In a Congress with a tight margin between the two parties, we end up with the prolonged partisan process exhibited over the last several months.

The current CR process is not over yet. This CR will end at midnight on February 8th which means that between now and then, Congress must once again come to a consensus on funding the government and which of their legislative priorities to add to it. Anomalies are therefore a perfect example of how a seemingly straightforward legislative process is anything but and how “regular order” continues to elude our governing process.

* Contributing author: Katie Kozlowski

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