All Dressed Up and Nowhere To Go

September 22, 2011 | By Liza Casabona | Post a Comment

Temporary extensions of both the surface transportation and Federal Aviation Administration authorizations passed both chambers of Congress and found their way to President Obama’s desk last week.

Despite advocates’ efforts, neither bill was a long-term extension, but the passage of the FAA bill at least temporarily prevents another shutdown of that agency.

The law authorized FAA programs through Jan. 30, 2012 and federal transit, highway and highway safety programs through March 31, 2012 at their current funding levels.

Lest we forget what was at stake, the FAA was partially shut down for two weeks over the summer while Congress battled over extending the agency’s authorization.

It seems these days that the only measures making it anywhere on the Hill are short-term ones. As Congress gears up to address a few whopping problems in the next couple weeks — namely, funding fiscal year 2012, which starts on Oct. 1, and the first wave of deadlines in November for debt deal spending cuts — you’d think legislators would want to move a few other things off their plates.

They only kind of shifted the transportation questions out of the way. They’ll have to revisit both packages not soon after they finish with the tasks required by the debt deal (i.e., identifying over $1 trillion in cuts to offset the debt limit increase), and if the negotiations over FY 2012 go the way of the FY 2011 talks, we’re going to end up with one heck of a pileup in the spring.

All of this means that those of us who follow federal funding are left feeling a little bit like we’ve been stood up at the school dance – waiting for something that may not happen.

Recent panelists at a Thompson subscribers-only webinar said that given all of the current uncertainties around federal funding, agencies are likely to hold off on application solicitations as long as possible in case they lose some funding. And it wouldn’t be impossible for agencies to rescind funding opportunities after applications have actually been submitted.

Scary stuff.

And this temporary approach probably isn’t helping matters much. We’ll just have to see how the next few weeks play out. Congress is expected to pass a continuing resolution for FY 2012 sometime this week and the so-called super committee has only a couple months to fulfill its (admittedly Herculean) task of cutting spending. You’d best hold onto your hats, folks.


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