Congress returned on September 8 from its annual August recess for a short autumn work period in Washington, primarily to pass a temporary budget to fund the federal government.
Last week, Congress approved and sent to President Obama a 10-week temporary spending bill that keeps the federal government operating through December 11, 2014. Congress will reconvene post-Election Day in a lame-duck session in an attempt to wrap up fiscal year 2015 budget negotiations.
Whether final passage on a budget is completed in December or early in 2015 is largely dependent upon Election Day outcomes. It is highly unlikely that Democrats will unseat the Republican majority in the House of Representatives. However, the party leadership of the Senate is in question, and many Washington insiders are of the opinion that Republicans are likely to win enough seats to shift the majority their way.
Democrats would like to complete an omnibus budget during the lame-duck session. They argue that a bipartisan agreement should not be too difficult to come by as a topline spending limit of $1.014 trillion for fiscal year 2015 was agreed upon in December 2013. However, if the GOP wins the Senate majority, they may choose to punt final decision making into February to be in a better position to negotiate Republican priorities.
Negotiations over components of the federal budget are contentious, but complicating final passage further will be debates over additional spending for other concerns including military aid to Ukraine and the border crisis.