House passes stopgap spending bill

The current appropriations bills are set to expire on Oct. 1; the bill now goes to the Senate where it is expected to pass.

The House of Representatives passed a continuing resolution to keep the government funded through Dec. 11. The measure passed Tuesday night by a vote of 359 to 57.

The current appropriations bills are set to expire on Oct. 1. The bill now goes to the Senate where it is expected to pass.

The bill is a slight revision of the stopgap funding measure introduced on Sept. 21. The new bill contains subsides for farmers and ranchers and nearly $8 billion for the extension of a coronavirus relief program that permits jurisdictions to distribute food aid to children and families that would ordinarily receive free or reduced price lunches at schools.

In addition to continuing fiscal year 2020 levels of spending until Dec. 11 or until a new funding package passes Congress, the bill also extends several expiring programs including key transportation and public health programs.

The bill contains legislation raising the cost of premium visa processing fees in order to fund the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, which had been poised to furlough more than 13,000 federal employees before congressional intervention. The overall continuing resolution also contains a policy rider that prohibits agencies from firing feds or putting employees on furlough because of funding constraints.

The bill also permits members of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps to bank excess leave that would been forfeited under ordinary circumstances.

The bill increases first quarter spending for the electronic health record modernization project at the Department of Veterans Affairs so the agency can meet launch goals. The bill also authorizes the Census Bureau to increase the tempo of spending to support the conclusion of the 2020 population count.

Additionally the bill authorizes – but does not fund – an extension of the provision in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act that permits agencies to pay contractors idled due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. The measure was scheduled to sunset at the close of fiscal year 2020. Defense officials and vendors have sought a dedicated funding pool to make these CARES Act payments to contractors – which are expected to total more than $10 billion.

"It is critical to have [the extension] if we need it to maintain essential contractor support while work plans continue to change in response to COVID-19,” said David Berteau, president and CEO of the Professional Services Council. "We look forward to the passage of the continuing resolution followed quickly by the president's signature to enact it into law."

This article first appeared on FCW, a Defense Systems partner site.