Five Facts on Continuing Resolutions

Five Facts on Continuing Resolutions

Congress has the responsibility to both set government funding levels and to authorize the actual spending of taxpayer dollars to fund government agencies and activities. But they rarely do either on time, which is why Congress has increasingly relied on passing something called a “continuing resolution.”

Here are Five Facts about how continuing resolutions are often the only thing literally keeping the lights on in Washington.

1. Continuing Resolutions Don’t Change the Funding levels of the Government.

As their name implies, continuing resolutions continue the current funding levels for the federal government.

2. There Have Been Dozens of Continuing Resolutions Passed in Recent Years.

Congress has not passed all 12 required annual spending bills on time in one year since 1997. Instead, much of the government has been funded by a patchwork of continuing resolutions. Between fiscal year 2010 and fiscal year 2022 alone, Congress passed nearly 50 continuing resolutions.

3. Continuing Resolutions Do Not Run for a Set Duration.

Congress can write a continuing resolution to be as long or as short as needed. Between fiscal year 2010 and fiscal year 2022, continuing resolutions passed by Congress varied in duration from as short as one day to as long as 176 days – nearly half a year. If Congress passes an actual spending bill, the continuing resolution ceases to be in effect.

4. Continuing Resolutions are not Automatic, But Some Think They Should Be.

As a way to prevent government shutdowns, some members of Congress have pushed for legislation that would automatically implement a continuing resolution should government funding expire, with incentives built in to encourage Congress to nonetheless pass a new spending bill, such as requiring members to work until a new funding deal is reached.

5. Continuing Resolutions Have Previously Led to Lapses In Funding for the Secret Service.

A 2015 investigation by POLITICO found that under continuing resolutions, the Secret Service cannot train new troops, just one of a litany of negative outcomes the short-term funding agreements create for federal agencies. Others POLITICO identified include backlogs in processing migrants at the southern border, delays in implementing a food safety law at the Food and Drug Administration, and a pause on a program to handle weapons-grade plutonium.