Because Democrats and Republicans are at loggerheads on spending, Congress had to approve yet another stopgap budget measure yesterday to keep the government running through March. While federal agencies avoided a shutdown, they've got to keep operating at last year's spending levels, a development that amounts to a budget cut given rising costs, notes the New York Times. The effects are wide-ranging: The SEC isn’t hiring; hundreds of millions in foreign aid dollars are stifled; IRS systems can’t be upgraded, etc.
“The continuing resolution, by design, mandates that programs are to be held at the amounts provided last year regardless of merit or need,” says Daniel Inouye, the Democratic chair of the Appropriations Committee. “Moreover, in the vacuum that this creates, it is left to the bureaucrats to determine how taxpayer funds are allocated, not elected representatives.” For Republicans, though, the measures have advantages: they’re making it hard to implement health care and financial regulatory reform—and when the current stopgap expires, they’ll have more congressional power.