Senate Passes 6-Month Stop-Gap Spending Bill
The U.S. Senate passed a stop-gap spending bill for fiscal year (FY) 2013 to fund all federal discretionary programs through March 27, 2013 at 0.6 percent above FY 2012 levels, sustaining the maximum Pell Grant award at $5,550.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed the bill -- known as a Continuing Resolution (CR) -- last week. President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law in the coming days.
The 0.6 percent increase means an added $416.8 million to the Department of Education’s budget. The plan stipulates that all programs operate under the same terms and conditions as in FY 2012, meaning new programs would not be started and existing programs would not be eliminated.
It also means the Federal Pell Grant program would maintain FY 2012 levels, leaving the maximum $5,550 Pell award in tact. (The Budget Control Act of 2011 left the Pell Grant program with a surplus for FY 2013, however Congress has yet to discuss how it will address the program's looming budget shortfall for FY 2014.)
The stop-gap measure is also considered "clean"—meaning Congress did not inject any last-minute controversial policy issues into the bill.
Congress failed to pass any of the 12 spending bills for FY 2013 budget cycle, which begins Oct. 1. Subsequently, House and Senate leaders negotiated the stop-gap measure in July to serve as a placeholder to keep federal programs funded. The plan averts a government shutdown and pushes back FY 2013 funding decisions after the elections and into early next year.
The 0.6 percent increase, equaling a total $1,047 spending target, conforms to the 2011 debt ceiling deal. Though some Republicans originally opposed any increases, GOP leaders said this week they still have the opportunity to cut spending after the election.
If the plan is enacted, each federal department and agency will have 30 days to submit an operating plan detailing the funding levels for their respective programs.