WMUR: Washington's budget brawl: 8 things you need to know
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) —When Congress returns from its five-week summer break in September, lawmakers will face some make-or-break fiscal issues that they have once again left to the last minute.
The stars seem aligned for an ugly fight over the federal budget, automatic spending cuts and the debt ceiling.
At the heart of the issue: The two parties can’t agree on a level of spending going forward, and there is disagreement even among Republicans as well.
Experts expect deals will be struck by key deadlines, but that’s hardly guaranteed.
What’s the first thing lawmakers must do? Fund the government past Sept. 30, which marks the last day of fiscal year 2013.
Given the serious differences between the House and Senate on spending, there’s no chance they will pass a real budget for fiscal year 2014.
So lawmakers will at least have to pass a temporary funding bill known as a “continuing resolution,” or CR, by Oct. 1.
And if it’s very short term, Congress will have to pass another one — or several — before Dec. 31.
Are they likely to pass a funding bill? Probably, but a lot could complicate the effort.
Normally when Congress passes a CR, it does so at current spending levels. Think of it like this: We can’t agree on what to do, so let’s keep on keepin’ on until we can.
But that would be risky this time around because the law calls for lower spending caps to take effect in fiscal year 2014.