WASHINGTON — Pop the champagne, kiss a baby and sing Auld Lang Syne, it’s New Year’s Day here in the nation’s capital. Forgive my frivolity.
While the federal fiscal year begins today, one won’t notice any change at all this year. That’s because leaders in Congress decided not to pass any appropriations bills before they left to go campaigning. Instead, Congress passed a continuing resoultion (largely maintaining current spending levels) that expires on December 3, meaning that appropriations will be a major duty of the lame duck Congress, which is set to return on November 15.
No budget = no reconciliation
For that matter, Congress hasn’t passed a budget resolution either. In practice, the budget has become a bit symbolic except for the fact that it allows for budget reconciliation procedures to be used the next year in the Senate (that magical little tactic that allowed the health care bill to pass with 51 votes rather than have to win 60 votes and bust a filibuster attempt). No budget resolution means no budget reconciliation, and most likely a far more clogged Senate next session.
A bit of fiscal new year trivia
At the founding of the country, the fiscal year was January to December, as established under the Gregorian calendar used in America and much of the Western world. It was moved twice — in 1842 by President Tyler to July-June and then in 1977 to its current October-September format.
The reason? Ironically enough, according to the Congressional Research Service, both times the motive was to give Congress more time to pass appropriations so they could avoid the ever-prevalent use of continuing resolutions.