What is a Laddered Continuing Resolution (CR)?

A laddered continuing resolution (CR), known colloquially as a “laddered CR,” is a legislative tool that divides appropriation bills into more than one clean CR. Simply put, it is a clean CR split into two or more separate CRs each with different expiration dates and number of appropriation bills. This approach allows lawmakers to narrow their focus on a select set of government agencies to fund, each with different deadlines.

As a reminder, there are currently 12 appropriation bills in total that fund specific portions of the federal government. If lawmakers are unable to agree on funding the government by the start of a Fiscal Year, they often initiate a temporary spending measure referred to as a Continuing Resolution, or CR. CR’s purpose is to keep federal operations proceeding at current spending levels while extending the past year’s priority and program lines until a later date, ensuring government agencies and activities can continue. A CR is “clean” when it does not include spending increases, cuts, or policy riders.

The laddered CR Speaker Johnson proposed on November 11, 2023, is an attempt by House Republican leadership to prevent a government shutdown on November 18 by splitting the 12 appropriation bills into two separate CRs, with the first rung of the “laddered” CR expiring in January, containing four appropriations bills, and the next expiring in February, including the remaining eight. It is important to note the Senate has already passed three of the four bills in the first rung of the “laddered” CR, thus providing a clearer path for lawmakers from both chambers to finish their work on these first, before moving to the next rung of the “ladder”.

The first rung of the “ladder” contains four appropriations bills expiring on January 19, 2024, including government programs and agencies covered by the Agriculture-FDA, Military Construction-Veterans Affairs, Transportation-Housing and Urban Development, and Energy-Water Development appropriations bills.

The second rung contains the remaining eight appropriation bills, expiring on February 2, 2024, and covers programs and agencies under the Defense, Labor-HHS, State-Foreign Ops, Commerce-Justice-Science, Financial Services-General Government, Legislative Branch, Interior, and Homeland Security appropriations bills.