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Budget Bills Only Rarely Signed Into Law On Time

Sat., Nov. 11, 1995

A month and a half after the start of a new fiscal year, Congress and the White House still haven’t agreed on how to fund the federal government and are headed for a budget collision.

So what else is new?

Over the past two decades, there have been only a few years when the 13 annual spending bills needed to run the government have all been signed into law by the legal Oct. 1 deadline.

No less than 55 stopgap spending measures, called “continuing resolutions,” have been enacted since 1977 to tide departments and agencies over during these periods. And 15 times, a budget confrontation between an executive and legislative branch controlled by different political parties has resulted in a “funding gap” that temporarily left the government without money to operate.

The gaps lasted only a few hours or days, and often happened on weekends or holidays, so furloughs and agency shutdowns usually were avoided.

When Democrats controlled one or both houses of Congress in the 1980s, they attached to spending measures all sorts of legislation, including a foreign aid authorization, a crime bill, and an increase in the debt ceiling.

In 1986 and 1987, all 13 appropriations bills were lumped into such a bill and sent to the president. The measures contained defense spending and other appropriations that he badly wanted, so he signed them into law.

Then it was a GOP president, Ronald Reagan, who bitterly complained about the tactics of Democrats in Congress.

xxxx POINTS OF CONTENTION Conditions that President Clinton objects to in the two spending bills include: Raising Medicare premiums; Curtailing appeals by deathrow inmates; Limiting federal agencies’ ability to issue health, safety and environmental regulations on businesses; Committing Clinton to achieve a balanced budget in seven years.


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