A “continuing appropriation” is spending authority that maintains the spending levels then currently in force but set to expire. A “continuing resolution” is the measure that is enacted into law which gives such appropriations force.
Continuing Appropriation/Continuing Resolution (often referred to simply as “CR”)
An appropriation act that provides budget authority for federal agencies, specific activities, or both to continue in operation when Congress and the President have not completed action on the regular appropriation acts by the beginning of the fiscal year.
Enacted in the form of a joint resolution, a continuing resolution is passed by both houses of Congress and signed into law by the President. A continuing resolution may be enacted for the full year, up to a specified date, or until regular appropriations are enacted. A continuing resolution usually specifies a maximum rate at which the obligations may be incurred based on levels specified in the resolution. For example, the resolution may state that obligations may not exceed the current rate or must be the lower of the amounts provided in the appropriation bills passed in the House or Senate. If enacted to cover the entire fiscal year, the resolution will usually specify amounts provided for each appropriation account. (See also Appropriation Act; Current Rate; Joint Resolution; Seasonal Rate; Supplemental Appropriation.)
Definition of Continuing Resolution
Continuing Resolution: Appropriations legislation enacted by Congress to provide temporary budget authority for Federal agencies to keep them in operation when their regular appropriation bill has not been enacted by the start of the fiscal year. A continuing resolution is a joint resolution, which has the same legal status as a bill.
A continuing resolution frequently specifies a maximum rate at which obligations may be incurred, based on the rate of the prior year, the President’s budget request, or an appropriation bill passed by either or both chambers of Congress. However, there have been instances when Congress has used a continuing resolution as an omnibus measure to enact a number of appropriation bills.
A continuing resolution is a form of appropriation act and should not be confused with the budget resolution.
[The Congressional Budget Process: An Explanation, Appendix J (Glossary), Committee on the Budget of the U.S. Senate, S. Prt. 105-67 (Revised December 1998).]