FACT CHECK: Has Congress Passed Over 30 Continuing Resolutions In The Last 10 Years?

Emily Larsen | Fact Check Reporter

Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet said Sunday that Congress has passed 30 continuing resolutions to fund the government in the past 10 years.

“Chuck, we have not passed a real budget for the 10 years that I’ve been in the Senate … We’ve had 30 continuing resolutions. It’s a joke,” said Bennet on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Verdict: True

Bennet’s figure is close. Congress has passed 36 continuing resolutions to fund the government rather than following the regular budget process since the senator took office in January 2009.

Fact Check:

If Congress doesn’t act by midnight Friday to approve a funding bill, the federal government will experience a partial government shutdown. Congressional leaders have proposed a continuing resolution to fund the government through Feb. 16.

Budget rules established in 1974 dictate that Congress is supposed to pass a budget resolution – which is not law, but more like an outline – by April 15 each year. Then Congress is supposed to pass 12 regular appropriations bills to fund the various parts of the federal government before the fiscal year begins on Oct. 1.

But Congress rarely meets that deadline, and instead uses short-term bills called continuing resolutions that set funding levels until the government can agree on a budget.

“We have been in an extended period where Congress has failed to follow regular order in the budget/appropriations process,” Justin Bogie, a senior policy analyst in fiscal affairs at the Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Caller News Foundation in an email.

Congress enacted 37 continuing resolutions from FY 2009 through December of FY 2018, according to the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. One of the FY 2009 continuing resolutions was enacted before Bennet took office.

Bennet has only been in office 9 full years, not 10 years as he stated. But the senator has been in office during 10 fiscal years.

The last time Congress met the Oct. 1 deadline for all 12 appropriations bills was in 1996. The Congressional Research Service says that Congress has funded all regular appropriations before the start of the fiscal year only four times since it adopted the budget timeline.

Bennet again expressed his frustration with the budget process on the Senate floor Wednesday.

“For the last 10 years, that is the way we have run the government in a game of chicken, of fiscal cliffs, government shutdowns, and continuing resolutions,” said Bennet.

The federal government operated under a continuing resolution more than 50 percent of the time from FY 2009 to FY 2015.

Congress also rarely adopts budget resolutions on time, and sometimes doesn’t adopt one at all. The last time Congress adopted a budget resolution on time was FY 2004.

Many experts blame the broken budget process on hyper-partisanship and outdated rules.

“Putting individual spending bills on the floor also forces senators to take politically difficult votes that potential opponents could highlight and challenge come the next election season,” Molly Reynolds, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, wrote in The Washington Post. “To help their own members avoid such scrutiny and to reduce the number of times they need to attract minority votes, majority party leaders take the omnibus route instead.”

Some scholars suggest budget process reforms like appropriating funds for two years rather than one year and eliminating redundant legislative actions.

Republicans may vote to pass a continuing resolution to keep the government open through Feb. 19 without Democrat support if more conservative Freedom Caucus members support the bill.

Many Democrats have said they will not support the temporary measure unless it includes a fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Republicans included a six-year extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) as part of the continuing resolution in an effort to gain Democratic support.

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Emily Larsen

Fact Check Reporter