Message from the President:
The recent surprise resignation of long-time ABA friend and supporter Speaker John Boehner has brought a number of very “inside the Beltway” budget terms to the forefront. Terms such as Continuing Resolution (CR), Omnibus Appropriations, Mini Omnibus Appropriations (Minibus), Consolidated Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) have all been in the news.
For all their warts, these terms sum up what used to be the regular order of the federal budget process. A CR is the easiest to explain, it is simply extending the same spending numbers and policies from the previous fiscal year for a short period or more frequently through the next fiscal year. Occasionally a CR will have some policy provisions included but typically they are “clean” CRs.
Omnibus Appropriations is when Congress is unable to complete work on each of the individual spending bills. They roll all the unfinished bills together into one package of new spending levels and policy changes and vote up or down. A Minibus is when Congress gets some of its work done, but still have a number of spending bills it has to roll together, again with both new funding levels and policy provisions. COBRA is the granddaddy of them all. It is the roll up of the tax changes and policy changes to match the congressional budget resolution passed earlier in the year. It is frequently the vehicle for major changes in policy including to Social Security, pension, and myriad tax credits. It also has special rules that severely limit amendments and filibusters in the Senate. COBRA was the vehicle that a united Democratic caucus utilized to pass the Affordable Care Act over the objections of Republicans.
If you have stayed with me on this stroll through Congressional budget jargon you have to be wondering why. The answer is simple. Congress just passed another short-term clean CR. It means that all the work the ABA team has done to work with Congressional appropriators on topics such as PHO liability protection, dietary guidelines, NLRB rules, and several others is not across the finish line. It is only through an Omnibus or Minibus, or ideally – but highly unlikely – through passing each spending bill on its own, that these and other changes to policy and funding will be realized. Doing another CR, especially for the entire new fiscal year, prevents these provisions from moving forward, leaving bakers facing more uncertainty.
When Speaker Boehner talks about regular order, he is primarily focused on regular budget and spending order. With his resignation, there are few left in the House Republican leadership who have ever passed a budget, appropriations bills and COBRA through regular order. As long as the President of a different party sits in the White House, there is little likelihood of massive shifts in policy direction. However, through regular order, important but incremental compromise can be achieved. Certainly not the ideal way to run a government, but an opportunity to impact policy before it impacts bakers.