If a continuing resolution is adopted instead of a spending bill, the Defense Department would not be able to negotiate the sort of multi-year contracts through which Super Hornets are purchased. (US Navy)
WASHINGTON — Senior US House and Senate appropriators working on a massive 2014 omnibus spending measure have yet to begin crafting a Plan B to keep the government open should they miss a fast-approaching deadline.
Congress has until Jan. 15 to pass a bill to fund the Pentagon and all other federal agencies through Sept. 30. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., are crafting the legislation, but they acknowledge much work remains.
Mikulski and the top Republican on the Senate spending panel, Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, told reporters Tuesday the omnibus bill, which will feature a full DoD 2014 appropriations bill and 11 others, is not yet written.
Shelby told reporters many details “haven’t crystallized yet.”
A senior House Appropriations Committee aide told Defense News on Wednesday afternoon that “we are still working and making progress, and are working as fast as possible.”
The House aide declined to “speculate on timing,” but did not discount the notion that Rogers and Mikulski might not wrap up the omnibus bill in time for both chambers to pass it by midnight on Jan. 15. Senate Appropriations sources also left the door open to a final vote after that date.
Such a scenario would require a short-term continuing resolution to avert another government shutdown while Rogers and Mikulski finish their legislation.
The House and Senate aides told Defense News there is no effort — yet — to craft a temporary CR.
“It is too early yet,” the House aide said.
Notably, the Senate aide pointed out such a bill could be written and passed by both chambers “very quickly.”
Pentagon officials, defense firms and congressional defense hawks warn that a CR leaves the Defense Department unable to start new acquisition programs, fire up new production lines or negotiate multiyear contracts, among other limitations.
Such concerns likely would be short-lived, with the conventional wisdom on Capitol Hill that both parties want to avoid another shutdown for political reasons and eventually approve the emerging Rogers-Mikulski omnibus.